Tuesday, October 27, 2009


My mother hates chickens. When we were kids and she was a single mom on a very limited (as in poverty level) budget, chicken would have made perfect economical sense for the five of us sitting around the table. But nope. If we needed an injection of pure Southern cooking, the deep fried in the cast iron skillet kind, we had to wait for Sunday dinner next door at Grandmother's.

While perhaps not exactly alektorophobia (only because rich people get to have diagnoses like the fear of chickens), mother's distaste for all things fowl was still quite severe. Not until the Dairy Queen came out with chicken strips -- something that looked nothing like its origin -- was mom able to finally partake of the crispy goodness of the fried bird.

The origins of her aversion are rooted in her childhood (wow ... what a shock) when she had to participate in wringing the creatures' necks before they were robbed of their feathers, introduced to that infamous black skillet, and appeared on her plate. She vowed never to have to eat that particular offering ever again.

I tell this story because my mother has been on my mind quite a bit lately. She and Doc have figured out a way to "live" around his trips to dialysis and the fact that he doesn't move as fast as he used to. She sometimes responds to my weekly inquiry about how she is with, "Fine . . . We're doing as good as can be expected. Doc passed out on the porch a couple of days ago and after Mike heard me yelling and came over . . . " Then the story continues as though it's perfectly normal to have an 84-year-old black out on your front steps. And, I guess in her case, it is now.

My mom is rather resolute. Life is what it is and you make it better or you just accept it and move on. But one of the things she finds hard to accept ... as do any of us ... is a mother outliving her child. She's done it, but even though my brother was 38 and his death came years ago, she's still not "over it" and never will be. (I say that only because of the well-meaning but ignorant people who assured her some day she would.) This week she witnessed another mother lose another son.

Dianne was once a frequent guest in our home. I worked with her at the aforementioned Dairy Queen and my brother dated her. Her post-Kelly boyfriend became her husband and Jimmy was ideal for her. (Meaning no offense to my bother but in this case they all wound up with their soulmates.) They went to college, got great jobs, had great kids, became pillars in the community (by choice since they both had bigtime options for employment that would have planted them in some urban area quite easily). And now ... they have experienced great loss. Their son lost the fight to cancer. Two decades hadn't even passed since his birth. And while, Jimmy (son's name as well) was a true champion by all accounts, the unfathomable happened and he lost the war.

Now what does this have to do with chickens?

Because survivors like my mom and maybe everyone with roots in a small town know that in the midst of tragedy beyond comprehension, you find ways to keep going.

Mother faced her fear of the chicken. The Crooms are egg farmers when they are not being successful professionals, church volunteers and incredibly supportive parents. They supply several members of First Baptist Greenfield with their weekly dozens. Since they've obviously been at the hospital and not at home, folks missed their Wednesday night delivery.

So my 79 year old mother decided to step in. She recruited my (yes-he-uses-a-cane) stepfather and enlisted the help of Dianne's sister to get around the dog and raided the chicken house.

At least, I thought that's what she was doing. She told the tale as though she were going to be right there in the coop, lifting the objects of her lifelone disdain and robbing them of their treasures. I was struck with waves of admiration as she told the story.

Later I found out that what she did was get into the house where the goodies were already cartoned and simply got enough for the congregation who were having to eat cereal rather than omelets for breakfast.

But I was still proud of her. Because I had to hear the egg story before we got to the fact that she was also caring for Dianne's ailing mother with several other folks from town and that she would be helping with feeding the family.

Caring for each other . . . that's just what you do in a small town. At least you do when your name is Margaret Campbell Porter.


T said...

Do you read Wendell Berry?

Dr. John Fairless said...

God bless Margaret and her kind in every small (and large) town everywhere!