A potluck. A small church. There is more food here than people. A cooler of iced tea. Casseroles out the front door. Coffee. Coke. Fried chicken.
I never met a potluck I didn’t like. Not even when I was in Kentucky and there was a casserole that allegedly had chunks of raccoon in it.
I love food, people, and cholesterol. Combining all three makes miracles happen.
The fried chicken is nothing short of spiritual. My fingers are too greasy to type. It’s euphoria on a short thigh. Lightly battered, golden brown, spiced with black pepper. I am crazy about fried chicken. In fact, you could say I consider myself a chicken enthusiast.
And this chicken is fit for company.
There is also a cream cheese dip made by an elderly woman named Miss Carolyn. It’s addictive. I’ve eaten three quarters of this dip, and am in serious need of Rolaids.
I ask Miss Carolyn what’s in this marvelous dish.
“It’s simple,” she says. “It’s called Cowboy Crack, my grandkids love it.”
This potluck is attended by people of all ages. A little girl plays piano. She is playing “Heart and Soul.” She’s been playing this melody for ninety minutes straight. Roughly eighty-nine minutes too long.
A church lady finally drags the girl away from the piano and assigns her to kitchen work, washing dishes. The girl is not happy about this. Life isn’t always fair, kid.
The deacon at my table is an avid golfer. He is talking about golf even though I told him I don’t know the difference between a five-iron and a duck-hooked double bogey. He keeps talking just the same. So, I’m smiling, nodding, and willing myself to spontaneously combust into flames. I have always thought spontaneous combustion would be a dramatic way to go.
I take my leave. I go for seconds on the buffet line. Namely, I need more chicken, and antacids.
I meet Linda. She’s washing cake pans with a brush. Miss Linda can’t talk because she has had throat cancer. Her voice is sore, she is not using it. Sometimes she communicates with a notepad. Tonight, she communicates with hand signals.
She grins at me, her blue eyes twinkle. She rubs her tummy and points. This is universal Church Lady Sign Language for: “Did you get enough to eat?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I say. “I’ve eaten myself into an early retirement.”
She laughs. Then coughs into a handkerchief. It’s a bad cough.
Linda’s daughter tells me this has been a bad time. Her mother’s treatments have been worse than the disease itself. The only pleasure Miss Linda gets in life is from cooking.
“My mother wouldn’t know what to do if she couldn’t cook. It’s just who she is, it makes her feel normal.”
Linda’s been tired a lot. She sleeps more hours than she is awake. Linda’s daughter has been the opposite. She worries so much that she hardly sleeps.
She’s been driving her mother to appointments. She stays in hotels while her mother stays in hospital rooms. Sometimes she brings her mother chocolate malts. Most days, she just sits beside her.
But tonight, you wouldn’t know anything has been wrong. Tonight, Miss Linda is herself, and she looks strong.
“I won’t lie,” says her daughter. “I’ll be the first to admit, I was never much of a praying person. I WANT to believe in a miracle for Mom, but we have to be realists here. Miracles don’t always happen.”
When the meal is over, Miss Linda and her daughter send me home with a plate of food that is heavy enough to sink the U.S.S. Indianapolis. And even though Miss Linda has been sick, she is worried about me eating enough.
Her daughter explains: “Mom says you look like you need to eat more. You’re kinda skinny.”
I hug both women before I leave. I thank Miss Linda for all the hard work she put into tonight. I ask her who made the life-changing fried chicken.
She leans into me. I hear her whisper. She has a rasp for a voice. “I made the chicken.”
Anyway, not long after the potluck I got an email. Miss Linda is in complete remission.
Miracles do happen.
Harriet - September 27, 2021 7:29 am
I like the happy ending here. ❤️
Mary Ann Ludwig - September 27, 2021 7:33 am
Prayers work. I have recently been put on a prayer list for a couple of things that could see my life end. There isn’t much else you can do for these problems. I treasure my sister-in-law’s caring and her prayer group. I am convinced that some forty or so years ago they saved me from a cancer diagnosis. I will be forever grateful. If they make it a twofer, I will always know that prayer does work. I don’t feel especially deserving of this grace or for these incredible people, but I love every single one of them. They live a few thousand miles away from me and I will never know their names, but I have known their loving spiritual expressions and I thank them every day. It’s the best I can do for now. We don’t have these wonderful potluck dinners out here in California. I don’t know why not. We used to have them. I guess we just got too woke. I’d rather we went back to the good old days when neighbors and small town groups put on potluck fundraisers and had meetings where everybody knew everybody else. Kids ran around making noise and having a great time staying up past their bedtime. Young couples shared their adventures and the old folks exchanged memories with all who would listen. Everyone did the washing up after and when we all left, the hall was a clean as a whistle, everyone was full to the brim with the good food and good company, kids were finally ready to go to bed and every person who had been there glowed with the sort of fellowship that is currently as rare as hen’s teeth. I miss that.
Fried Chicken – Virginia Belle - September 27, 2021 11:27 am
[…] Fried Chicken […]
Nancy Wright - September 27, 2021 11:35 am
Thanks, Sean! That made my day!’
Debbie g - September 27, 2021 11:55 am
Made my smile and sweet tears for the day. Thank you Sean. And Mary Ann. Grace is free😇😇😇we praying for you too Love to all
Suellen - September 27, 2021 12:03 pm
Cooking is my only super power. Not than I’m a gourmet or even among the best but it’s something I love to do. I love to feed people. I used to put on meals for my whole company or while my husband was still Pastoring a church I would feed the whole church. People still talk about my chicken and noodles or my german potato salad 30 or 40 years later. Now my circle is a lot smaller and my steps a lot slower. I still try to bake for my Bible Study class.
Jan - September 27, 2021 12:05 pm
Praise God for the good news for Miss Linda! Thank you for sharing.
Paul McCutchen - September 27, 2021 12:30 pm
And can you believe some people think fried chicken is not good for you. Have a good day Sean
Romulus Jefferson Martin - September 27, 2021 12:39 pm
Thanks for your help with my Sunday School lesson this past Sunday. I am a substitute teacher at local Baptist church and got the call Sat. afternoon around 4 PM to sub Sunday. Well I must say that I am a football fan on Saturdays and was watching my Auburn tigers flop around and getting pushed off the field by what was supposed to be an inferior opponent on homecoming day. So to say I was about ready to throw a rock thru the TV is an understatement. Joe said he really needed a teacher Sunday, but I certainly was not in the Sunday School teaching mood but said ok anyway. I usually do a better job thru the week in studying my Bible lessons but this week I had been about as sorry as my Auburn team was performing on the field. Some weeks are like that, being lazy comes pretty naturally in exercise and Bible study. Well to get on with it I waited to early Sunday morning to prepare not a very good idea. The lesson was on Paul telling the Philippian church to forget about their ritual worship and rules and live for Christ. Well your story on Reeltown was read through it’s entirety to close out the lesson. Thanks for the inspiration to teach and help with a Sunday school lesson. Ronny
Stacey Wallace - September 27, 2021 12:59 pm
Ronny, I feel your pain. I too am an avid Auburn fan and was ready to throw something through the tv. Sean’s stories help me remember how much God has blessed me and how unimportant things I get upset about really are. I would have liked to hear your Sunday school lesson. War Eagle!
Stacey Wallace - September 27, 2021 12:50 pm
God bless you, Sean. I needed that. Thanks!
Deborah Blount - September 27, 2021 12:56 pm
That was beautiful! Miracles do happen, and prayer moves mountains.
Tom - September 27, 2021 1:31 pm
Good ending with the great news for Miss Linda. I remember those church potluck suppers from when I was a kid but it seems the many churches have become too “cultured” for these now. If there is anything better than Godly ladies and fried chicken, the good Lord kept them for himself!!
chip plyler - September 27, 2021 1:43 pm
Thank you Father for your Love …
Shelton A. - September 27, 2021 2:01 pm
My grandma made the best fried chicken. Thanks for the joyful news about Miss Linda. God is good and miracles do happen every day (as you well know).
Charlsie M Johnston - September 27, 2021 2:03 pm
I have only recently learned about you and your writings (imagine that!). I was born and raised and still reside in the South and your stories are sooooooooooo relevant to my childhood and experiences. I LOVE them!!!!! Thank you so much for making me smile and remember….God bless you!
Deanna - September 27, 2021 2:15 pm
Ah, those sweet words “You are in remission”. Prayers are answered
Lucie - September 27, 2021 2:47 pm
Love your writing!!!!
AlaRedClayGirl - September 27, 2021 3:13 pm
Good story with a wonderful ending! As for the Auburn game Saturday…I was there during the years that if we won 3 games (even if it was against Podunk High School), then it was a winning season. War Eagle always!
Dina - September 27, 2021 3:15 pm
I truly love how you write! A miracle just happened in my life. I am now a grandma for the first time at the tender age of only 70 soon to be 71. I thought it would never happen. Miracles do happen.
Lulu - September 27, 2021 3:42 pm
I love your writings, Sean. So full of love and compassion along with humor. I’m happy for Miss Linda’s good news. You know, I also am encouraged by the comments you receive. I am now praying for one of them…Mary Anne. Also get some football news along in the comments. I am not a War Eagle ’cause I live in Texas but am a Sooner, through and through. Sooner born, Sooner bred and when I die I’ll be Sooner dead. God works all the time and never lets go…miracles do happen. Oh, and fried chicken is my favorite food. Eat it at least once a week. Keep writing!
Linda Moon - September 27, 2021 4:01 pm
Potlucks at a small church on a bluff were the best. Ordinary life-things like fried chicken were elevated there on The Bluff. And LIFE itself is elevated even more every day when I read about other people’s lives via South of the South posts. Bring us more miraculous stories, please.
Another “Miss Linda”
Christina - September 27, 2021 4:25 pm
Some foods just bring so much comfort. Some church ladies just embody some much love. Some columnists just share the most miraculous stories.
Kathy - September 27, 2021 4:32 pm
Once again, tears. We humans want miracles all the time. But we want to orchestrate them. Mostly, we just need to pay attention to the miracles that are here with us already.
Peggy ALEXANDER - September 27, 2021 5:19 pm
Gonna fry me some chicken 🍗 tonight I am thinking 🤔 😊
Tammy S. - September 27, 2021 6:45 pm
Ginger Smith - September 27, 2021 7:50 pm
Wonderful news! Wow!
Now, you go back and ask Miss Linda for her recipe. Tell her I said Thank You!!! I haven’t fried chicken in years. Really shouldn’t do that much. But, I’d like a good recipe! Thank you!
Leila Travlos - September 28, 2021 8:14 am
I would love her recipe as well. It sounds absolutely devine.
Ann Beebe - September 27, 2021 8:43 pm
I LOVE your columns! I’m a brand new reader, and feel like I know you… then I think of Lewis Grizzard….
Chasity Davis Ritter - September 27, 2021 9:05 pm
Now just why would the Lord be in a hurry to take a woman who can make fried chicken so good that I could taste it just by reading about it??? Thank you Lord Jesus for your miracle 🙏🙏 and thanks for sharing Sean even if (as always) you made me cry yet again. They’re good tears at least and those are the best kind.
catladymac - September 27, 2021 9:09 pm
Friend chicken has made more than one miracle !
Anne McDaniel - September 27, 2021 9:19 pm
This was surely fried chicken for the soul!
Bill Harris - September 27, 2021 10:39 pm
Thank you Sean and I thank God for miracles !
MAM - September 27, 2021 10:56 pm
Happy tears here for the miracle remission. Prayers definitely, absolutely and really do work! Thanks for the miracles and happiness for people we don’t even know that you bring us with your writing, Sean.
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - September 27, 2021 11:21 pm
Praise God for Ms Linda!
Liza - September 28, 2021 1:14 am
Johnny - September 30, 2021 6:07 pm
If Ms. Linda can make life changing fried chicken The Lord can give her a miracle.
Janice Johnson - October 2, 2021 9:04 pm
Thank you. I enjoy your writting so much. I think its a Southern thing. I have COPD recently been placed on Hospice. I needed your words of love and encouragement about your mother in law so very much. You never know whose soul y’all were touching. My sad, lonely , lost desperation you and your mother in law brought peace and understanding. Thank you for helping me put one foot in front of the other and think of my loving daughter ahead of all the rest. You’re a Godsend. God bless and keep you. Please give yourcwife my deepest condolences for the loss of her Momma. God’s peace be with y’all. Love, Janice