Rural Living

Food for the Soul

A Heaping Helping of Community Spirit

 

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

There are many reasons I particularly like November. Itís time to dig out the warm, fuzzy socks. Itís time to don cozy fleece shirts. Itís time to lay in a supply of cocoa and bake some bread. Itís time for a delightful glow to emanate once again from the fireplace.

Best of all, itís time for Thanksgiving.

I am especially thankful for Thanks≠giving this year, because I missed it last year. Iím sure they served me something special for dinner in the hospital; I just donít remember what it was. I do remember that I somehow managed to win the door prize at Bathís community Thanksgiving dinner, even though I was in my hospital bed at the time.

Thatís one of the many wonderful things about rural living. If youíre missed at a particular event, first they pray for you, and then someone brings you something.

Our community Thanksgiving feast is a marvelous, miraculous thing. It started years ago, with one family leading the charge. The firehouse in Hot Springs was offered as a site for the celebration. The call went out far and wide for folks to come, and to please bring a dish of something ó anything ó to share with everyone else. Tables were dressed with happy little turkey-type decorations. Generous folks donated turkeys. A team spent half the night and most of the next day cooking them. Then, a couple of the more expert knife-wielders came in and carved for hours.

As time passed, so did many of those who spearheaded things in the early days. For a short period, it looked as if the feast might fall by the wayside. But miraculously, other good-hearted organizers stepped up to the plate, so to speak. And the feast continued.

The dinner starts at noon. Anyone can come, and lots of people do. Though itís not required, most everyone brings something ó potatoes, dressing, ham, rolls, relishes, green beans, squash, countless desserts. Some send food, even if they canít join in the feast. It is all truly amazing.

One year, we ended up with just one bowl of mashed potatoes. They went fast. The next year, we had about a dozen bowls heaped with hot potatoes. One woman, famed for her excellent homemade rolls, hauls in about 17 dozen of the tasty things just before the dinner bell rings. Me? Well, I make sure thereís plenty of real butter.

Even when Mom was alive, Iíd stop by the firehouse to at least take a picture for the paper and maybe snatch a piece of turkey and a hot roll before heading home to Momís incomparable dinner.

Now, Iím there in Momís apron every year. She died in September 2005. That year, I was dismayed to burst into tears right before the feast began. A caring crowd surrounded me and soon enough, I was feeling happy and hungry again. Rural living is like that.

Thereís much thatís miraculous about our community Thanksgiving. Even though no one makes a list of whoís bringing what, we end up with everything we need and much, much more. We do make a list of the old, infirm dears who need a ride; then, a team goes to pick them up and bring them to us.

It is a perfect mix of people ó a cross-sampling of society. A millionaire in a cashmere jacket has a great time conversing with the stranger next to him, who probably hasnít had a hearty, decent meal in days. People from far-flung corners plan to sit beside one another during their annual get-together, and pick up their conversations yet again.

When weíre done, a self-appointed team gets busy making to-go plates for shut-ins and hunting husbands and anyone who might need a yummy supper later. An attorney and a county supervisor roll up their sleeves and wash hundreds of dishes. Someone thinks about a poor hermitís dogs, heaps up several plates with meat, and drops it off on her way home.

It is all supremely heart-warming.

This year, our feast might not happen. The organizer, who has more pressing obligations, put an ad in the paper, asking someone else to step into her hard-to-fill shoes. So far, no one has jumped in to take on the responsibility. Maybe, like me, theyíre thinking, ďIíd do it, but ÖĒ

As I sit here, though, my mind is changing. I know itís the Spirit of Mom, compelling me from beyond to take on good deeds.

Happy holidays, everyone!

 

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