Old World

Humility isn’t Miss Lola’s only affliction. She has rheumatoid arthritis. Her condition prevents her from doing things she loves. Like cutting chicken, or manning skillets. It has not, however, affected her delicate tastes.

Miss Lola places casserole dishes on the table. She forms neat rows. The table is full. There is enough Southern fare here to sink the U.S.S. Humdinger.

Close your eyes and imagine heaven’s own Golden Corral franchise. That’s what this fellowship hall is.

There are old women everywhere. They are buzzing through the room making sure things happen.

Miss Lola walks with a hunched back and resembles the late Kathryn Tucker Windham. She makes coffee in the Baptist Bunn machine.

The church roof has just been replaced. The fellowship hall was supposed to be renovated, but they ran out of money.

“New roof is expensive,” remarks Miss Lola. “The other ladies wanted new appliances and new floors, but all we could afford was the new roof and refrigerator.”

For supper, Miss Lola sits beside me. She eats slower than it takes to read the unabridged version of Gone With the Wind.

“Who fried this chicken?” someone asks.

“Ruth,” Miss Lola says. “But hers ain’t as good as mine.”

Humility isn’t Miss Lola’s only affliction. She has rheumatoid arthritis. Her condition prevents her from doing things she loves. Like cutting chicken, or manning skillets. It has not, however, affected her delicate tastes.

“This chicken’s too soggy,” she adds. “Mine was never soggy.”

The macaroni and cheese is equally as magnificent. It comes from Miss Lola’s niece, who just turned fifteen.

The kid used her grandmama’s recipe.

When Miss Lola finishes eating, she hobbles between tables. She wears a blue apron. She gathers used paper plates and silverware. Some servants never quit.

After supper, the room empties. People leave for the sanctuary. Save for a few women. Those who stay behind are mostly gray and white.

I stay, too. I collect trash and fold chairs. Miss Lola and I fold tables and nearly amputate my fingers. This makes her laugh very hard.

Later, she stands at at the three-compartment sink, scrubbing. Well, that is, she’s TRYING to scrub. Her knobby hands can’t quite cut the mustard.

Her granddaughter says, “Lemme do it, Grandmama.”

Miss Lola is too old to put up a fuss. She steps aside.

She takes a seat. She is out of breath, but it doesn’t stop her from making pleasant conversation. To sophisticated ladies like Miss Lola, dead air is a sin. But she knows how to save it.

She’s from the old world. And she knows things. She’s been attending this church since childhood, frequenting covered-dish suppers since before grade school.

She got married here, dedicated babies here. She buried one husband and a son here.

And one day, she tells me, they will lay her to rest in the same plot.

She is among the last of her generation. She is a church lady. And she shares her staple recipes with her granddaughter so that she will live forever in the form of a casserole.

She stares at her granddaughter with eyes that practically sing.

“I’m sorta glad they didn’t renovate this old fellowship hall,” she says. “Old things are more special, don’t you think?”

Yes I do, Miss Lola.

And so are women like you.

17 comments

  1. MaryJane Breaux - July 15, 2018 5:43 am

    Precious pearls of wisdom.

    Reply
  2. Beth Reed - July 15, 2018 8:01 am

    Aww what a sweet story. I remember women like this from my younger days in church. It was so special to me and and also my children as they were growing up.
    Thanks for sharing this story with your readers. Have a ewonderfu Sunday. Beth Reed

    Reply
  3. Barb - July 15, 2018 10:06 am

    Sean, I love how you craft a story so well that the words paint a picture. I’m drawn into each one as if I’m there. I appreciate that you’re so observant to include descriptions and details that preserve events, places, emotions and most of all, people. Many of your expressions make me chuckle out loud. COL. 😉 I hope you never stop finding and sharing goodness. Thank you, Sean of the South.

    Reply
  4. Grace - July 15, 2018 11:05 am

    ❤️My mom was a Miss Lola except she never criticized others’ cooking. She just wouldn’t eat it. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Joy - July 15, 2018 12:08 pm

    loved it….I think I have a lot in common with Mrs. Lola!

    Reply
  6. Rhonda Howell - July 15, 2018 12:29 pm

    I wish I could send this to every person under 50 years old today. In my lifetime there has been a terrible shift in care for your parents. Basically they don’t want to do it. Nursing and assisted living homes are thriving with the same greed as a street corner pimp. In the last year 2 of my friends were “tricked’ into visiting a home and their kids sneaked out the back door and left them there. No discussion or prep. In Jail with no options. These are not folks who needed care for health just age issues.

    Please please please write more about the value of age. About obligation to do whats right. About there is a right way to do things and everything else is wrong. Period. That burden raised you up, loved you, didn’t kill you every time you deserved it You owe them. A lot.

    Reply
  7. Belinda Cotney - July 15, 2018 12:47 pm

    Nothing better than a seasoned church lady..love

    Reply
  8. Jack Darnell - July 15, 2018 1:30 pm

    Strange we know the same people, but my Miss Lola is in NC & Florida! 😉

    Reply
  9. cronkitesue - July 15, 2018 2:48 pm

    Heartwarming story. Eighty is the new sixty. Keep going To all the Miss Lola’s.

    Reply
  10. Terri Boykin - July 15, 2018 2:50 pm

    Love you much, Sean.

    Reply
  11. Edna B. - July 15, 2018 5:01 pm

    Just a wonderful story. And to Rhonda H, I whole heartedly agree with you. These church ladies reminded me of my Aunt Lucy. God bless her. And I agree, some old things are just too special to change. Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  12. Shelton Armour - July 15, 2018 5:52 pm

    I think all churches have a (or several) Miss Lola’s in them. We should treasure them all.

    Reply
  13. Jack Quanstrum - July 15, 2018 11:05 pm

    🙂

    Reply
  14. Rhonda Robinson - July 16, 2018 12:57 pm

    Great way to start my morning , we don’t have many women in the church like that left but they do make you smile when you see the few that are left

    Reply
  15. Charles Simpson - July 16, 2018 9:59 pm

    made me tear up. I’m old and old school. My church was just like that.. The older ladies in the kitchen, creating heavenly food, and me getting in their way trying to snatch a biscuit or basically just anything edible. I was a church kid. My Dad was the Sunday School Superintendent ,my Mom sang in the choir and I was in the Royal Ambassadors, you Baptists out there will know what that is. That meant I was there a lot, a whole lot. I look back and realize just how wonderful it was and all the fun I had.

    Reply
  16. Anna Ehrhardt - July 18, 2018 9:13 am

    Oh this reminds me of the church dinner we had years ago. We Lutherans could put on a feast. I would love to step back in time for an hour or two just to sit and listen to my family talk about the good ole days. Again, memories

    Reply
  17. Dennise Romine - August 1, 2018 2:50 pm

    “Some servants never quit.” This statement gave me goosebumps when I read it! So much wisdom in these gray haired servants hearts.

    Reply

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