CrossWise Friendships. Part 2 of “A Simple Feast of Friendship”

CrossWise Friendships Mandy Thomas

I would like to introduce you to my friend Mandy Gervasi Thomas—photographer, nurse, poet, wife, and mom. I asked Mandy to collaborate with me on Chapter 9 of CrossWise Living: Navigating Transition. I pick up the chapter where I left off last time and Mandy’s voice will finish it.  

The Story Continues

A few years later, the phone rings and I hear the voice of Mandy, one of my visitors that pleasant evening. Married now for two years, she’s back in San Diego with her husband David for a short visit and wants to drop in for a few minutes that morning before they leave town.

Mandy and David arrive a few hours later with their new baby Judah, who has both a full diaper and an empty tummy. Things always seem to be going crosswise when there’s a new baby, and they’re running late. I suspect they might be hungry, as it’s way past lunchtime, and I’m pleased that they accept my invitation to join Jeff and me for a quick bite before they have to be on the road again. Fortunately, I’ve developed a new habit now that I’m cooking for just two—whenever I make soup, I double the batch and freeze it.

I dig through the freezer, and find a spicy squash-carrot-red pepper-onion puree I can quickly defrost. I try to inspire them in the art of thrifty and creative cookery when I tell them I made it one day by just using up every vegetable in my fridge that wasn’t green. I dub it “Vegetative Virtue” and serve it up steaming hot and topped with a dollop of non-fat Greek Yogurt.  I hunt down enough goodies to make an interesting salad and manage to find some rice crackers that have not gone stale. Honestly, I couldn’t have made anything more ambitious, interesting, or tasty had we planned this meal in advance.

Our conversation is as nourishing as the soup and just as impromptu. We’ve been building this friendship for years. Mandy had originally been my daughter’s friend, but as lovers of literature, we found we were kindred spirits, and spent time hiking together or just talking over tea. When she and David started dating, I’d prayed with her about their possible future together. Later, we frankly discussed the real struggles married couples face. And today, I’m thrilled to seeing her glow with maternal joy. She’s happy to be at her husband’s side as they face the last lap of his long journey toward becoming a missionary doctor. I have abundant reason to thank God for answered prayer.

Jeff and I ask them how their marriage is going. As an older couple that has invested time in this young couple, we feel it is both a responsibility and a privilege to ask the deeper questions. They look at each other and smile. No, actually, they beam!

They tell us they’ve been intentional about planning a date once a week where they ask each other certain specific questions. Hearing this, I say, “Great! Demonstrate! Let’s do it!”

Together, the two couples, 30 years apart in age, listen and learn from each other as we share our answers to such questions as: What have I done to make you feel loved this week? How can I pursue you romantically this week? How can I pray for you in the week ahead?

Had Jeff and I spent time with another mid-life couple, we probably wouldn’t have had such a transparent and helpful conversation about marriage. I relish the refreshing openness I find when I spend time with younger people. When members of different generations sit across from one another at an open table of Christian fellowship, all parties stand to gain insight and perspective. When we deliberately cultivate cross-generational relationships, we find the benefits and enjoyment are mutual. To demonstrate, I asked Mandy to write her side of this story.

A Protégé’s Perspective: Mandy’s Words

Gail is my mother’s age, but she is not my mother, an important distinction that means she is able to give me words of wisdom without hanging on my every move to ensure follow-through, and I can give her mine without seeming pert. It is in this safe place of sharing that we have become friends, beginning in my college years, on through my awkward single years, to marrying my ideal husband. Today is important because I am bringing my newborn son for the first time, as well as two full years of marriage to lay on the examining table. But this is not a table swept clean and sterile with scary metal instruments on it. This one is always ready with a meal and steaming cups of tea, the perfect place to dissect a soul.

She and her husband have taken us in at a mealtime, far past when we were supposed to arrive, but her years of warming a house into a home make the full table look effortless. My husband and I with our two years of marriage experience share candidly about a tool we’ve used to stay connected each week, and get to hear as their 30+ years of knitted-together flesh try it on for size. We are all delighted to find: it fits.

While there is no agenda, today’s conversation is guided by our stages in life and the projects dearest to our hearts. I am fresh with mothering insight and haven’t lost enough sleep yet to feel defeated. She is finding focus in her writing and mentoring in the idea that we flourish when we are rooted in relationships with the generations above and below us.

She calls it crosswise. I get chills as she tells us this —myself and our husbands and my napping baby—perhaps because she is describing my relationships during my happiest seasons, but also because it is happening as we speak.  We are crosswise, with our three generations and our intersecting lives. But the moment is not a crescendo to be followed by lesser notes. It is a tree watered and pruned, bearing fruit each season. I never imagined that I would have a fat baby and marriage lessons to bring to the table, but it is that season for me. Theirs is the season of an open schedule and an open home, without which we would never have had the chance to intersect. But here we are, three generations feasting on the fruit of shared living.

And we are all delighted to find: we fit.

How about you? Are you a mentor or mentee (protégé)? Do you have any cross-generational relationships? How did they come about, and what do you do to nurture them?