Birthday parties have always been important in our family. In 1950 when Jack, our first child, turned one we invited a one-year-old friend of his to come over for a bite of cake and ice cream. From then on there was a birthday party every year for each of our three children.

I don’t remember having or attending birthday parties when I was a child, but maybe my memory is faulty because I do remember playing typical birthday games such as “Pin the tail on the donkey” and “Spin the bottle.” At any rate, they didn’t have the importance then that they do now.

Until this year, that is. Social distancing in this time of a pandemic precludes gathering in groups, which effectively eliminates birthday parties, as well as weddings and funerals. So my three great grandchildren will be deprived of this tradition for a while as they are all under the age of three. And my three friends who will turn 100 this summer will also be deprived of this very special day in their lives.

But people are clever — at least those who are computer literate — when it comes to improvising. Several programs, including Zoom can be set up for a group of people to meet vicariously, press the right buttons (I am not that computer literate, but I have help) and all appear on the computer screen at once. We each have a tiny camera aimed at us from the top of our computer and a tiny microphone to speak into. Then we can all speak and be heard, like at a dinner party without the dinner table.

Those of us who find this kind of gathering confusing or even chaotic, can revert to phone calls (one on one) or emails to wish someone a Happy Birthday. And there are a growing number of e-cards to be had on the computer, for all occasions.

I’m grateful for all these methods of keeping us in contact with each other during the time we’re going though now. I’m using my old princess telephone more and more these days to keep in touch with old and new friends, on-Island and off-Island.

And last week, when I turned 94, about a dozen members of my family appeared on my computer screen and at a signal, sang Happy Birthday to me. What could be better than that.

Shirley Mayhew lives in West Tisbury