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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Country Church Picnic

Laughing in the Golden Years
Photo credit: Pixabay-summer picnic
Maryann Nunnally


The little country, Baptist church that I attended all through my growing-up years reserved the second Saturday in July for an annual picnic.  And just in case of rain, the third Saturday was reserved as well.  About a week before, the men in the congregation dragged sawhorses from the storage area and set them up on the lush grasses of the side lawn.  Then they would place wooden planks on them to form two very long tables. Other men would borrow benches from a near-by wealthier church than ours.  With butcher paper spread and tacked down on the planks, the tables were ready for the annual event. The side lawn was a perfect place for a picnic with mature maple trees along the border and enough room on the lawn for games for the children.

During the week before the picnic my mother called my cousin Harriet and me to talk to her.  Mom said that now that we were young ladies, 14 and 15 in age, we could be the waitresses at the picnic.  What an honor that was.  We, Harriet and I, felt grown-up and very special to be chosen to wait on all the other congregants including the children and teenagers.  Mom further said that we would have to wait to eat until everyone was finished, but then we could relax and have our own picnic together.

Saturday arrived, a warm beautiful northern July day, and the tables were covered with every imaginable kind of picnic foods. There were platters heaped with fried chicken or sliced ham, bowls of potato and macaronic salads, corn-on-the-cob, tossed salads for those who would rather have fresh farm vegetables, and fluffy homemade biscuits. At least fifty kinds of desserts were ready to be served, every type of homemade pies and cakes.  Since we were workers, all Harriet and I could do was drool and look forward to the time that we could eat.

We hurried around setting out paper-plates and stainless-steel cutlery. Then the real work began. As people were seated, it was our job to make sure that the food was passed down in family style. When a platter or bowl was emptied, we ran up the seven steps to the church kitchen, where women refilled the platters or gave us fresh bowls of salad.  We never stopped moving.

At one point, my cousin Howard, a cocky teenager, called us over by shouting, “Hey, girls, we need more lemonade over here.”

I would have ignored him, but I knew he would tell my mother that Harriet and I were not being helpful. So, we filled the paper cups with insincere smiles glued to our faces.

At last, everyone had had their fill. Adults moved over to drink their coffee or hot tea in chairs placed under the maple trees, while the children raced around the lawn playing games.  Our last job was to clean up the tables, get rid of the paper products and tear off the butcher paper. When everything was as tidy as we could make it, we walked very slowly and pretty much exhausted up the steps and into the kitchen to at last sit down and enjoy our picnic meal.

It was then that we discovered that the kitchen women had gone home and taken the left-over food with them.  There was not a scrap left for Harriet and me. My mom was horrified that she had not set any food aside for us. Looking in the huge kitchen refrigerator, she found a jar of homemade sweet bread-and-butter pickles, a loaf of sliced home-made bread, some butter and a half of her famous chocolate cake that she had hidden to take home when the picnic was over. Setting this meager repast out in front of us on the kitchen table, she apologized again and again.

Harriet and I just grinned and assured her that we were okay. Spreading thick butter on the homemade bread slices and covering them with pickles, we licked our lips and devoured a complete jar of pickles and all the bread. Then we cut mom’s cake in two and ate every bit of it. Meanwhile mom had found about a quarter of watermelon left in the galvanized tub outside in ice water, and Harriet and I polished that off also. We were totally satisfied.

The next day the pastor, before he began his sermon, praised the two of us by name for the hard work we had put in as waitresses the day before. Then he said, “These two young women were left with nothing to eat from the picnic meal.”

There was a gasp from the congregation, but Harriet and I just ducked our heads and nudged each other. After all, how many teenage girls could be actual martyrs for a real cause, and still have the satisfaction of having eaten half a chocolate cake.





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About the Contributor
Maryann Nunnally, Contributing Writer
Maryann Nunnally is a retired high school principal and professional comedienne. She writes the regular column Laughing through the Golden Years for Cape Fear Voices.

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    Ray BurkartAug 10, 2023 at 10:12 pm

    MaryAnn does it again. Tickling our aged and remebering funny bones