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 and made the old woman proud.

When Miss Lola finishes eating, she hobbles between tables. She wears a blue apron. She gathers used paper plates and silverware from people who have finished eating. 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 three of my favorite 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 that’s covered in cheese.

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 a lot more special, don’t you think?”

Yes. I do, Miss Lola.

And so are women like you.

10 comments

  1. Jennifer Hill - January 20, 2019 11:00 am

    This made me think of my Granny & Nona & all the Church ladies I know. Gran & Nona are gone, but I still cook their foods & find great comfort when I eat them. ❤️

    Reply
  2. Sherry - January 20, 2019 1:32 pm

    Church ladies are Saints…and they are all denominations….we have many at our Catholic Church…which now has a new roof!

    Reply
  3. Phillip Saunders - January 20, 2019 1:41 pm

    I shared this one with our minister. There’s sermon material here for sure. Let’s hope Miss Lola’s granddaughter grows up to be just like her.

    Reply
  4. Liz Watkins - January 20, 2019 2:18 pm

    God Bless Miss Lola and all of the the old ladies that set examples for what we all should do for our church and for each other? And who cares that Miss Lola toots her own horn!! She deserves it!
    Thanks Sean!
    Go Saints🖤💛🖤💛🖤💛🖤💛🖤💛

    Reply
  5. Ginger Smith - January 20, 2019 6:04 pm

    To all the Miss Lola’s of the world, thank you! This makes me think of Lois McCosh of Columbus, Georgia. She finally broke down and wrote a cookbook. She’s gone now, but her legacy lives on. And it also makes me think of a cookbook I inherited, the Byromville GA Methodist Church ladies cookbook from about 1983. It has fourteen pages of congealed salad recipes….the mark of a really good cookbook! My children rolled their eyes each time I brought that up…..much fun!

    Reply
  6. Edna B. - January 20, 2019 6:06 pm

    God Bless Miss Lola and her wonderful granddaughter. And God Bless you Sean for bringing all these wonderful folks to us. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  7. Shelton A. - January 20, 2019 6:37 pm

    Sounds a lot like my church and we have our Miss Lolas, God bless them.

    Reply
  8. Jacque - January 21, 2019 3:38 am

    She is the last of a wonderful generation to never be replaced. All our churches have these precious souls in them. Wish they could last forever.

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  9. Kathy Coxwell - January 27, 2019 2:47 am

    Made me think of all the sweet Church ladies we’ve know and lost. Funny thing is, I’m getting old, too.

    Reply
  10. Will - February 3, 2019 10:15 am

    Miss Lola sounds just like my grandma sounded. Lord that woman could cook! We, my wife and I could drop in unexpectedly and nothing would do but we had to eat before we left. She wouldn’t have anything fixed but within 30 minutes there was a full meal on the table! Those kind of ladies cannot be replaced! Thanks for the memories Sean!

    Reply

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