On the flight home from Russia, caught midway between my much-too-long-awaiting bed and the world I’d lived in for the past three weeks, I started to think about what I would miss most about covering the Olympics. I know. Miss? About covering the Olympics? It would have been easier to think of 10 things I miss most about being a teenager and return to watching the tiny movies playing in the headrest in front of me.
But several times during the Games, and especially on those days when I was feeling particularly tired or stressed or homesick, I stopped, took a breath and thought about something I had enjoyed about that day and implanted the memory into my brain, knowing I would eventually scrub away the negative and time would take care of most of the rest.
On that plane ride home, I thought of my favorites. And the one thing I kept returning to, the experience I knew I would miss most about Russia, was the letters.
Being 12 hours ahead of Cali time, and nine ahead of the east coast, made phone calls difficult. I managed a few. But my free time and awake hours rarely synched with those of my friends and family back in the States. I’m used to talking to many of my friends every day, some even multiple times a day. What was I supposed to do for a month without them? Stalk Facebook and Instagram, for one. Become really good at Twitter (for three weeks), for another.
And write letters. Not the truly wonderful kind that you fold three times, place in an envelope and drive to the Post Office to mail because who has stamps in her house, anyway? Email letters. The new-old-fashioned, > 140 character method of communication.
I’m not sure how they started, and I don’t know if I took more pleasure in reading or writing them, but every letter made my day. Even friends who typically text two-word responses to questions like, “How’s your day?” or “Thoughts on the conflict in the Ukraine?” began channeling Georgia O’Keeffe in order to fill me in on what was happening in their lives. When I left Russia, I remember thinking, “Bummer. That’s the end of the letters.”
Then, on Saturday, my friends reminded me why they are so much better in person. And why I missed them all so terribly.
I was in Russia for my birthday and had a pretty low-key day. I went to lunch by myself and watched the first runs of four-man bobsled that night. It was the final Saturday of the Olympics and most everyone had headed home already. I didn’t plan to do anything when I got home, but Brittany and Stacey told me they weren’t having it, so they were taking me to dinner Saturday night. We invited Jenni and Allison and told a few other friends we could meet them after dinner for drinks.
On the way to dinner, we stopped at a bar so Britt could “pick up a check” from a friend before she left town for the week, and that friend really wanted to say hi to me. So Britt convinced me to get out of the car and go in with her — in heels, no less. We walked into the bar and … “Surprise!” A group of my friends – 15 or 20 of them – were sitting at tables beneath balloons drinking wine and wearing matching “ROE KNOWS” Nike T-shirts in the fluorescent green and blue of the Seattle Seahawks. I was stunned.
After the Hawks won the Super Bowl, some friends – and many people I don’t know – re-posted my pre-season Hawks story from the magazine and hashtagged the post #RoeKnows, a play on the 90’s Nike campaign “Bo Knows.” Brittany had the brilliant and sweet idea to make T-shirts, a la a family reunion. After I put mine on, we left the bar, got onto a party bus parked outside (fully decorated, stocked with champagne and my favorite beer and complete with a stripper pole) and drove for a very long time. Then I was blindfolded and walked into a building in an industrial center in the middle of nowhere.
That’s where they build trampoline parks, apparently. (Nowhere = Thousand Oaks.)
It was an amazing night. We bounced and jumped into the foam pit and I got to watch my incredibly talented friends flip and twist and lose their keys. Brittany even packed my zebra-striped trapeze pants so I wouldn’t have to trampoline in my party dress.
We ate pizza and ice cream and birthday cake, played a video dance game with kids who were also celebrating birthdays and danced in Sam’s hotdog costume. Brittany and Jenni and Stacey are incredible for planning the most amazing birthday party in the history of birthday parties (I’ve fact checked that sentence and it is, in fact, accurate). Allison and Sam and Ian and Ilana and Kristen and Liza and Jen and Jesse and Calli and Sean are amazing for partying along. And my friends who couldn’t make it were so very much missed. It was a 13th birthday I will never forget.
Now back to writing those thank-you letters.
(Check out my Facebook page for more photos. I’m compiling the best from the cameras of my talented friends and will post one today.)