My mom’s voice, with its lilting Indian accent, reminds me of sunlight: warm, joyous, musical and instantly soothing. When I’m at home, I don’t set an alarm; I like it better when she wakes me up with a “Goooooood Morning Sahani! It’s time to get up!”

I always stretch and groan “Ammmaaaaa” — “Mooooom” in my native language, Tamil — because I don’t understand her morning cheer (how does she wake up so excited?!). It makes me smile anyway. 

Whenever I FaceTime mom, I revel in the brightness of that voice. I say silly things just to surprise a laugh out of her, to hear the smile in her words. But with meetings, work, more than 2,000 miles of distance and a three-hour time difference between us, our FaceTimes are fewer and farther between than I’d like. 

As we inch closer to the one-year anniversary of this pandemic, it’s getting harder to drag myself out of bed. When the morning light finally pries my eyelids apart, I find myself missing my mom’s voice — and the voices of so many others. I miss my boyfriend’s soft, rumbling cadence, tinted by his Midwestern accent. I miss my best friends’ excited chatter; they always have too many thoughts, never finishing a sentence, always darting off in new directions. Their physical absence grows a little tougher to bear every day. 

But lately, I’ve found some solace in Cappuccino, an app that lets you create daily podcasts featuring your friends and family. 

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Here’s how it works: you and your friends get the app, then create a group together. Name it whatever you want (seriously, anything goes — one of my groups is called “Sam’s Beanie Babies”). You record short voice memos — called “beans” — throughout your day, and send them to the group you’d like them to go to. You can prompt each other with questions to answer, or reflect on moments throughout your day, or speak your most random ideas into existence; each “bean” has a three-minute cutoff.

Every morning, Cappuccino’s software takes all the “beans” recorded the day before, mixes them with music and serves you a piping hot podcast to enjoy while you brush your teeth. If you forgot to record a bean all day, but you want it to show up in your friends’ next 8 a.m. podcast, worry not — even if you record one at 7:54 a.m. the morning-of, the software will mix it into that day’s pod. 

Though Cappuccino provides a public feed you can listen and add to, I haven’t explored it much. For me, the app is all about intimate, personal connections.

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I found out about Cappuccino when my best friend unceremoniously blew up my phone past midnight a few weeks ago, insisting I get the app and try it out with her. We began with a single podcast made by me, her and two of our other friends. Now, I have four or five thriving dailies featuring various loved ones. 

There’s something more intimate than a video call in the recordings. Maybe it’s their quality, the way they sound when I pop my headphones in my ears and close my eyes to listen. I feel like if I just turned around, they’d be standing right behind me: amma, appa, boyfriend, friends, sister. Sometimes, the promise of hearing them is the only thing that gets me to peel myself off the sheets and begin my day. 

Today, it’s my dad’s voice that greets me — I forgot to listen to our Sunday Cappuccino. He sounds slower, deeper, more whimsical than I remember; he’s brought my sister on so she can talk to me, too. 

“No more random thoughts than these,” he says. “Take care!” 

“Hope you have a wonderful weekend!” my sister chimes in. She’s smiling, I can tell. 

I smile back.