Christopherson Column - As time passes, a new way to connect

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Friends. How do we meet them? How do we make them? How do we keep them?

    We meet them, make them and keep them through family ties, of course. If you have a little kid or two rumbling, bumbling and stumbling about and a couple other families on your street are in a similar family boat, it’s practically inevitable that your kids are going to meet and play together – “play dates” will be scheduled – and you as parents are going to get to know those other parents, and friendships could blossom.

    Where you go to work each day is a potential friend pipeline as well. While many people are more than happy to leave work at the workplace and perhaps want little or nothing to do with their colleagues outside the office, countless friendships are born when people spend so much time together in the process of trying to make a living. “Who’s up for happy hour after work?” You get the picture.

    There are lifelong friends, too. Way back when, you were the little kids running around mentioned a couple paragraphs previous, you went to school together throughout your childhoods and remained in touch as you entered adulthood, and you’re still tight to this day. These friendships are fairly rare, but the advent of social media has greatly increased the chances that people are going to stay connected via electronic device.

    For my wife and I, it was the parents-with-little-kids angle previously mentioned that opened up our doors to new friends. The kids weren’t playing on the playground as we looked on and made small talk, though; it was sports, specifically, youth hockey, that introduced us to a new crew of families, a couple of which to this day occupy our tightest circle of closest friends.

   That doesn’t always happen. Many parents will tell you that once your kids graduate from high school, even though you often find yourself suddenly with massive amounts of idle time to fill that was once crammed with practices and games, trips to tournaments and other youth sports or activity-related commitments, you don’t always fill that time staying in touch with the friends you previously connected with because of your mutual status as parents to kids participating in the same activities.

    It’s an unavoidable life development: Once your kids are no longer kids, you lose touch, even if just a little.

    Given that, my wife and I feel supremely fortunate that we met those hockey families when we did, and that the friendships have continued after our sons broke their last $300 stick.

    But that doesn’t mean life’s pages don’t introduce new chapters every now and then. The kids are grown up and gone, and maybe they’re replaced by a “kid” covered in fur who walks on all fours. Not actually “replaced,” but, you know...

    When that happens, you’re not meeting new people or getting to know better what before were merely casual acquaintances while you’re at the hockey arena or in a hotel lobby before a tournament or a sports bar before a game, you’re meeting them at the dog park. You’re meeting them on the sidewalk or street, or on a walking path through the woods. Or maybe you’re meeting them at something that was largely foreign to us until a couple short months ago: Doggy daycare.

    Suddenly, you become aware of the fact that there are dogs everywhere. Seriously, here in Crookston, it’s like every family has a dog or maybe even two. When you notice all of those dogs, it’s almost impossible not to notice their owners and make small talk, and maybe after a while you’re comparing your “invisible fences” and wondering if making your two pups could get together in one of your yards to run around and basically go bananas on each other.

    No, we’re not inviting our new canine crew over for a backyard bonfire or scheduling a weekend getaway together. But we sure have met a lot of nice people, and their dogs of course. It’s a great way to fill some time, and keep in touch, in a new way.

Mike Christopherson, Crookston Times managing editor