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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: No Praise for Potlucks

© Another Day in the Country

My dad was a minister and growing up in a church family I teethed on potluck dinners.

For me, potlucks were as natural as prayers before bedtime. There was always a potluck on the agenda somewhere. If it wasn’t right after church, it was Wednesday night before prayer meeting when the Building Committee met.

As a preacher’s kid my attendance at all the potlucks was mandatory. You would think that I would have loved them because potlucks meant a variety of food, many kids to play with, and being able to run around the church parking lot while the parents mingled, but even at the tender age of 7, I hated potlucks.

What I really hated were “mystery dishes,” the ones that I couldn’t quite tell what the lump was on my plate.

Of course, we always had to clean up our plates.

Even if a dish was obviously potato salad — you never knew what strange thing lurked in the depths of mayonnaise.

When I became the preacher’s wife many years later, I still hated potluck dinners.

There was an added burden.

I was rather shy. Not only did I have to eat strange food, I had to smile, listen, and socialize.

I don’t have to attend many potlucks these days, but I still don’t like them.

Potlucks speak of social unease and heartburn, plus all those nasty and difficult-to-wash casserole dishes waiting to be scoured of dried food afterward.

It is a challenge to come together as a group of people and not get indigestion. The smaller the group, the larger the risk of your time together not “setting right.”

In a small puddle, we know all about the folk who sit across the table from us even though they are not relatives.

A woman, who used to walk to the Post Office every morning wearing long dangling earrings, gave me the facts when we first moved to Ramona.

“It won’t be long before they’ll know all about you,” she chirped, “They’ll even know how much toilet paper you use.”

I laughed then, but it’s true. We do know many things about each other and those things aren’t always nice.

We know about each other’s hardships. Sometimes we can help each other — sometimes we can’t. Bottom line, we often know excessively much about each other’s business — especially if folks spend time on social media or have a loud voice.

Then we get together, as we just did last Saturday morning in Ramona, and have breakfast.

Jeanie had this bright idea —her daughter, who is new to town, also volunteered to help.

“I’ve got biscuits and gravy mix left over from when the hunters were here in town,” Jeanie said.

I suppose she could have just used the extra for her family but instead she said, “We might as well use that stuff for a town breakfast. It’s Christmas!”

Jess offered to bring cinnamon rolls. I did kaloches.

We had an event, and it wasn’t a potluck, I was glad for that.

All the townsfolk were invited, as were all the country folk with a Ramona address.

It’s so wonderful when the country folk join our town events!

Our friend Jill is here from Oregon, so she came to the breakfast, too.

I introduced her to people.

“And here’s Mrs. Sondergard,” I tell her. “Darlene lived in Ramona for over 70 years. Her husband Kink was born here. Now she lives in the cutest little apartment in Herington.”

Jill smiles and nods.

“This is Junior. He lives southeast of town.”

The kids from Ramona file through the line — some with parents, some without.

“See those boys over there — they are in my art class at Centre,” I tell Jill.

Another shy child approaches to say hello, balancing his breakfast on a paper plate.

He is one of my artistic third-graders. How sweet of him to approach me — an older woman, his teacher — and speak to me without me initiating conversation.

I’m smiling wider than ever. Even if his Mom put him up to politely greet me, I am charmed by his gesture.

These folks are my neighbors, it’s Christmas, and we’re having breakfast together like one big happy family on another day in the country.

Last modified Dec. 29, 2014

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