Listening to the members of the Three Mountain Café Grandma Mafia talk about the importance of friendship and connection, it is clear that something real has been lost over the last year.

They’re not the only ones who missed their community and their friends and those chance encounters to meet people and stop to discuss something important or something much less so, but no less compelling.

Many people have found themselves, as the pandemic isolated us physically from each other, lingering longer than necessary on phone calls with people we don’t often talk to. Or standing -- 6 feet apart and masked – outside the grocery store or hardware store talking about someone’s dog or skiing or new house or thoughts about Amanda Gorman, the inaugural poet.

Not only has it been hard not to socialize, it’s been hard not to engage with each other. It’s been hard not to see each other’s faces and it’s been particularly hard not to hug each other. It’s been hard to treat shopping and errands as strict tasks and not a time for catching up with people we know.

Many people know the often-shoeless Johnny Summers, a Moretown resident and Mad River Valley Ambulance Service volunteer. Summers was one of the MRVAS personnel helping with COVID testing this winter when it was being held outside in the parking lot at Waitsfield Telecom.

One day when this writer drove up for a test, opened the window and offered Summers and air hug, he said “Oh, you’re on my list.”

Thinking he meant on the list for a test, I expressed surprise becauses I didn’t have an appointment for that test. He explained that he was keeping a list of people he plans to hug once the pandemic is under control and that I was on it.

How many of us have such a list whether it is physical or mental? Thankfully some people can once again hug their friends and family – including those in the Grandma Mafia.

As the vaccines continue to ramp up and roll out, many, many more people will be able to hug each other.

Better keep those lists up-to-date.