Rural Living

It's the time of year to enjoy your leftovers!

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer


 Margo Oxendine

The merriment factor is truly off the charts.

The din of happy conversation rises to a clamor.

This is the most difficult column I write each year. While it is due in mid-September, it does not appear in your mailbox until November. And, it’s one of those double-month issues, November and December. Ergo, it should have some sort of “holiday” theme.

It is not easy to think of the holidays when it’s not yet autumn. I have often drawn from my memories of holidays past. But, after 17 years of writing this column, I’m afraid my “holiday bank” of memories is depleted.

And right now, in September, the leaves are just beginning to change color; the windows are still open day and night. Ah. My favorite season.

Not to mention, today is Sept. 25, and this November-December column is already overdue. My favorite “boss” — as much as I allow myself to have one — once introduced me to a crowd of reporters as, “A woman who never met a deadline she couldn’t push.” And that’s the truth. I’ve been at this writing game long enough (40 years?) that I know the difference between a “deadline” and a “drop dead-line.”

Looking ahead to the holiday season — and it seems so very far off, doesn’t it? — there’s much I enjoy, and a few things I don’t. I won’t dwell on those, except to say the least enjoyable thing is the angst of choosing the perfect gift. And then wrapping it.

The thing I most enjoy, I guess, is the community Thanksgiving feast that’s held in Bath County each year. It’s the perfect event, especially for a place where the “oldsters” outnumber the youngsters. Many of us no longer have a family to gather ’round a big table, where yummy food that’s taken all day and sometimes longer to prepare, is served. My family now consists of two: my sister and myself.

Here’s what happens on Thanksgiving in Bath: Organizers work hard to pull together a crowd of volunteers, to cajole businesses to contribute funds or turkeys or hams, to make sure there are long tables set up, with chairs, and tablecloths and napkins and flatware and plates and cups. And, of course, decorations. Then, the community is invited — come one, come all! — to bring a dish (or not) and enjoy the festive camaraderie.

There is never a worry that there will not be enough food. There’s always plenty — enough to feed about 140 people, and then wrap up leftovers, or to-go plates for shut-ins and hermits. Sure, sometimes things don’t go exactly right: One year, we ended up with no mashed potatoes. The next year, we had 17 heaping bowls. Ladies arrive early wearing pretty aprons, and eager to help set out food. Men with knives arrive to carve turkeys and hams. Two fellows — a prominent attorney and a retired school superintendent — can always be counted on to stand in the firehouse kitchen, washing hundreds of dishes and pots and pans. Children race around, gaping in awe at the dessert table. If someone needs a ride, there’s a pool of drivers ready to pick them up and take them home.

The merriment factor is truly off the charts. The din of happy conversation rises to a clamor. Door prizes — also donated from businesses — are doled out. The oldest person — usually someone in her nineties — and the youngest person — often a baby in a bunting — also win awards and rousing applause.

The crowd is diverse. There are camouflaged hunters just in out of the woods, dowagers dressed in their brightest holiday sweaters, a few folks who don’t bother to change out of their sweatshirts, elderly ladies in hats. One year, I observed a man with a surname all America would recognize, show up wearing a cashmere jacket, carrying food from an Indian restaurant 75 miles distant. The unusual dish created quite a stir. This fellow sat beside another from far more humble circumstances. Yet, they engaged in conversation that took them through dinner and had them chuckling over things they had in common. These two would never have had occasion to meet, had it not been for the community feast. Why not try it in your own rural hometown?

My second favorite thing about Thanksgiving is this: After the community feast in the afternoon, my sister, the retired chef, creates another that evening, just for the two of us. She says she does it because she wants plenty of leftover turkey and cranberry sandwiches. For both of us.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Enjoy your leftovers!

To read more of Margo’s columns, order A Party of One. Call 540-468-2147 from 9-5, Monday-Thursday, or email:  



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