The truth is, all good things keep vanishing. They make cheeseburgers out of chemical Jell-O and grow fish in Japanese labs.

Before you read another word, you should know: I’m an optimist. I believe in hope, love, and puppies. Which is why you’ll often hear me say things like, “Mother of Frank, this world has really gone to hell.”

Because optimists say things like that.

The truth is, all good things keep vanishing. They make cheeseburgers out of chemical Jell-O and grow fish in Japanese labs. Hardly anyone uses paper money, film-cameras, or manners. Church ladies have disappeared, along with their casserole dishes.

And so have potlucks.

Don’t take my word for it, listen to seventy-three-year-old Phillip, who I met at a bar in Geneva, Alabama.

He said, “Growing up, summer was one big party. Our churches had homecomings and potlucks. Also, Granny held family reunions. There was always a cookout going.”

I love cookouts.

“Not anymore,” he said. “After Granny died, we just kinda quit having family reunions. And our church homecomings aren’t the same either. Mostly, food gets catered nowadays, sometimes it’s Chinese food.”

God help us. I’d rather eat a cold slice of undercooked beaver than eat egg foo yung at a church potluck.

Not long ago, summer used to be ninety-days of home-cooked barbecue, fish-fries, and gospel picnics on the green. There, you’d find Miss Ann’s cheese potato casserole—with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes sprinkled on top.

What I’d give for a bite of that stuff right now.

But it’s more than just picnics. What happened to the dog days of fun? Families, friends, and charcoal grills. My daddy, would slide out of his work clothes and into a normal shirt. Mother made potato salad. We’d attend gospel services with traveling quartets who used too much hairspray. There’d be ice tea, fireflies in fruit jars, girls in sundresses, hide and seek, horseshoes, and games of catch.

“You know what I think?” the man at the bar said. “Your generation just doesn’t have time for fun, so they don’t do those sorta things anymore—no offense.”

None taken.

He’s right. I haven’t attended a bona fide church potluck, or seen an honest-to-goodness church lady with a beehive hairdo in roughly two hundred years. I’m not sure either exist in a modern world.

But if they do, I’d like to offer up a prayer:

Dear Lord God,

Please bring back big picnics. And if, by chance, one of your faithful, God-fearing church ladies knows how to make cheese potato casserole—with corn flakes on top—my address is: 183 Starlight Lane, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, 32459.


I told you I was an optimist.


  1. Maureen - May 28, 2016 9:22 pm

    sounds great – and we still have potlucks at our Church – but not the picnics. I remember those days as well…

  2. Laura - October 2, 2016 2:39 am

    I know you love the south, but I really think you should come check out Lakewood, Ohio. I did not grow up here, but moved here by choice. Many of the things you love are still alive and well in Lakewood. Neighbors know each other. Kids walk to school. And yes, people still have potlucks! In fact, being in Lakewood on the Fourth of July is like stepping right back in time. Come check us out. I think you’d fit right in.


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