We seemed unlikely friends. MaMa’ (the accent is on the second syllable) and me. She nearing her eightieth birthday and me in my early sixties.
I met MaMa’ at an art exhibition. Her family was hosting my youngest son’s first photography show in their downtown gallery. I had previously met the rest of MaMa’s family, but it wasn’t until the opening night of the exhibit that we were introduced.
My son introduced her to me, not as Mrs. Blanca, as she was formally known, but as MaMa’. She was a very petite, gracious lady with the most beautiful white hair which she wore in a classic bob. I would never have guessed her age by her face, as she had aged gracefully. However, the years has not been quite as kind to her body and had left her a bit unsteady on her feet. She compensated by slowly shuffling one foot in front of the other as she moved from place to place often holding on to the nearest object to steady herself.
Everyone ate, mingled, talked and enjoyed both the photographs on display, as well as each other’s company. MaMa’ and her family invited us to come back to visit anytime.
Since the family’s frame shop was downtown, and I regularly frequented the area, I began to stop in now and then just to say hello. People in small towns do that. The shopkeepers know and love their customers, and the customers know and love their shopkeepers. It is quite common to just stop in to chat a bit, sometimes buying something, sometimes not.
I discovered that MaMa’ actually worked in the shop on Fridays. Her daughter and son-in-law picked her up on their drive to the shop, quite early in the morning. MaMa’ came impeccably dressed, armed with a feather duster, and ready to work. Her “duties” consisted of dusting all the shelves and merchandise in the gallery, as well as keeping all of the art supplies stocked. MaMa’ worked slowly, but diligently and took much pride in helping with the family business. It also gave her an opportunity to get out and be with people during the day, something she greatly enjoyed doing.
One Friday, I asked MaMa’ if she’d like to go to lunch. She was delighted, so off we went. I was honored that her family trusted me to get her safely there and back as MaMa’ was obviously one of their most closely guarded treasures!
Even though I offered to take MaMa’ anywhere she wanted to go for lunch, she chose our local coffee shop and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich.
This was the first of many more Fridays with MaMa’. Each time I picked her up and asked where she wanted to go, she would smile at me and say, “You know I want my grilled cheese sandwich.” So off we would go to the same coffee shop, sit at the same table, and order the same fare each time – a grilled cheese sandwich for MaMa’, along with a salad for me.
Over the years we became close friends. During lunch, MaMa’ would tell me fascinating stories about growing up as a young girl in Mexico City and I would tell MaMa’ my stories of growing up in New Orleans. We sat and listened to each other’s life adventures, she with much more to tell than me since she had had a twenty-year head start.
We asked about each other’s families and how and what each member was doing. We confided in each other and shared our joys as well as our sorrows. We laughed and cried together.
Sharing lunch with MaMa was so much more than eating a grilled cheese sandwich and a salad together. It was an opportunity to learn the lessons that only friendship can teach us. I learned that the gift of friendship comes in the giving, that it often comes in unexpected packages, and that it requires giving the gift of time. I also learned that our stories just beg to be both told and heard. For it is in these stories that friendships grow and deepen, that joys are shared and grief is halved, lost dreams are resurrected and new ones are born, courage rises, regrets are released, forgiveness is given, and healing is found. Yes, it is in these stories – in both the telling and the listening – that we become better versions of ourselves.
MaMa’ and I have recently had to adjust what our friendship looks like. My husband and I relocated and I can no longer go pick MaMa’ up and take her to get her grilled cheese sandwich. She is no longer able to go, even if I could, as shortly after we moved, she fell and injured herself, so she now stays close to home.
However, although our lunch plans have had to be adjusted, our friendship still remains alive and well!
We now have our conversations by phone, and in keeping with tradition, we always try to have them on a Friday
Hi, I’m Terry Gassett, Jesus Follower, Wife, Mother, Nina, Life Coach, and Writer. I was born and raised in the “Deep South” and I still live and work there. I have been married to my heartthrob for over 30 years, and we have three grown children, three granddaughters (two who are twins!) and a Chi Chi/Jack Russell perpetual pup.
I am a Life Design Coach and I work with Creative Christian Women to design lives of purpose, passion, and joy!
When not listening to women’s hearts through the coaching process, I am expressing my own through writing. Currently, I’m writing my first book – “Breathe, Just, Breathe: Breathing in the Extraordinary Gifts of God on Ordinary Days.”
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