ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Teresa Edens and Nancy Capels danced their way to friendship but the pandemic arrived and forced them outdoors.
Now their friendship involves a lot of walking, talking and trash, but not necessarily trash talking.
Edens, a native of Memphis, moved to New Mexico with her husband in 1986, when he was sent here with his company to open a car dealership. Edens said after the birth of her first child she made exercising a priority.
The daughter of ballroom dancers who performed into their 80s, Edens was also a dancer. So choosing dancing as her exercise seemed like a natural choice. After moving to Albuquerque, she decided to start attending a 7:30 a.m. Jazzercise class at a small studio near Tramway and Montgomery.
Already a regular there was Nancy Capels, and the women discovered they lived in the same neighborhood. Seeing each other weekly for years the two built a solid friendship based on their enjoyment and commitment to exercise, and a love of gardening and coffee.
The two women often went for coffee after their exercise class. When everything closed down, they had to find an alternate way to exercise.
“Our daily routine was severely disrupted,” Capels said. “We tried to make a new routine.”
Capels said the two noticed a lot of trash on their walk and she suggested that during their three-mile Monday walks they should take garbage bags and pick up trash.
“There’s plenty of trash to pick up,” she said. “I wanted to be community-minded.”
That’s what they’ve been doing for almost five months now. Sometimes they fill up three large bags.
“You wouldn’t believe what we find,” Edens said. “This recent Monday was a record day for liquor bottles. We have also found car seats, backpacks, shoes. One time we found a cowboy hat and a brand new decorative candle.”
Capels, who moved to New Mexico in the ’70s after growing up in Ohio and Pennsylvania, said the reaction from people has varied from suspicion to surprise to gratefulness. McDonald’s has given them permission to throw their trashbags in their dumpsters and has offered the ladies free coffee for their efforts. Another man pulled over to tell them how much he appreciated them and to let them know he did the same in his neighborhood. Then he sped away.
Their daily walks have also led to new friendships. They met a lady in her 80s, also a regular walker, who moved to the United States from Cuba. She invited them to her house for homemade flan on her back patio. They also struck up a friendship with a couple who gets coffee at McDonald’s every day. The husband and wife retired to New Mexico and in a serendipitous twist, Edens discovered the husband of the duo went to high school with her sister in Memphis.
Capels said it has been good to be able to do something for the community and to also meet so many people in Albuquerque who are warm and welcoming.
“It’s one of those times of new beginnings,” Capels said. “Life changes. This turned out well for us and is also fun and led to great camaraderie.”