The Meaning of Community – A Bovina Story

Bovina Center, NY was, and remains to this day, a tiny rural town in the Catskill Mountains, a “dry” town where you could not purchase alcohol beverages, a place where quilting never died, and where the singular church, a Presbyterian Church, was the heart of the community. In 1973, I was a city girl and single mother, with one son, who planned to never marry again. Passing years would show me that life had other plans though and after a three-year courtship, I married Don, a country boy, a farmer with a small dairy herd and we began to forge our 23- year partnership.

Four years later, in 1977, Polly was born and then Susan arrived in 1979. One evening in 1980, my son Chip was at basketball practice in the neighboring town of Delhi, and I needed to pick him up. The night was chilly, the ground slippery with a thin layer of ice, and I carefully traversed the slope down to the barn, where I would tell Don I was leaving to pick Chip up. Halfway down the slope I slipped, fell, and heard my ankle snap as I landed on my bottom. I sat stunned for a few minutes, then slowly crab-crawled to the milk house door, somehow got inside, and managed to get Don’s attention despite the strident noise of the compressor that ran the milking machines.

Don quickly finished milking, we packed the girls in the car, and left for the small emergency room in Delhi. Several hours later we returned home and I hobbled, with assistance, up to the house with my new crutches and a cast on my right leg, which would be my 10-week winter companion that year.

I soon learned what an impediment crutches and a cast were when caring for a 1 and 3-year-old in our family of five. Every task I needed to do slowed to a virtual turtle pace and I suddenly realized a very, very long winter lay ahead.

When the phone rang the next afternoon, I awkwardly thumped my way over to it and said, “Hello.” A friend told me she was sorry to hear about my broken ankle, then told me our church had organized an ongoing schedule to bring daily meals to our home. I could not take this in, at first, for I’d grown up in a small Long Island community where our family had a few neighborhood friendships, attended the Catholic Church and came home right afterward, and that was the extent of our community ties. Now the Bovina church community was reaching out to us in an unimaginable way, preparing food not only for their own busy families, but for ours as well.

Each day for weeks, a full and hearty main course arrived at my front door in the hands of a kind neighbor, friend, or church couple, accompanied by a pie, a cake, or cookies. After the first few days I became moved to tears, at times, with the most humble gratitude I’d ever experienced. I remember clearly the day when the mom of a large, financially struggling family arrived with a huge pot of spaghetti. Her blue eyes twinkled as she smiled and said, “Well, it’s not much, but it’s sustenance.”

Sustenance? Indeed. It was sustenance not only for our bodies but gave rich sustenance to our souls.

Today, in my seventh decade of life, I smile when I remember the multiple opportunities I’ve had to pass on that kindness to others. Most often, though, when I recall that winter, the same deep gratitude I felt then envelopes me like a prayer shawl in the present. I realize that my fall on the slippery slope—when people from all over my community arrived with food, or offers to care for my daughters, or to help with laundry or housework—transformed into the deepest sense of community I’d ever experienced, either before or since, in my lifetime.

About Mary Jo Doig

Mary Jo Doig was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from the State University at Oneonta in New York’s Catskill Mountains with a degree in Secondary English Education/Educational Psychology. There she fell in love with rural life, remained, and eventually transitioned from city girl to country woman when she married a dairy farmer and raised their three children on their small family farm. A life-long lover of reading and writing, Mary Jo has for nearly twenty years been a member of the Story Circle Network. There she has been an editor, a women’s writing circle facilitator, a book reviewer, and life-writing enthusiast, working extensively with women writing their life-stories while writing her own memoir. Presently, she is a three-time Program Chair for SCNs national Stories from the Heart conference and a board member. She also facilitates Older Women’s Legacy workshops and a women’s life-writing circle in her area communities. Her stories have appeared in Kitchen Table Stories anthology, Story Circle Annual Anthologies, and most recently her story “I Can’t Breathe” was published in the Anthology, Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories. Her work also appears in varied blogs and periodicals, on her blog Musings from a Patchwork Quilt Life (, Facebook, and Twitter. Her son and two daughters grown, Mary Jo presently treasures her country life in Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley. She loves cooking (and eating!) healthy food, reading, writing, quilting, hiking, and spending quality time with her rescue cats, Button and Xena, and beagle, Addie, who each dream of being only children. Her first book, Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss, will be published in October, 2018 by She Writes Press.
This entry was posted in Bovina Stories, Community, Family, Gifts, Gratitude, Simplicity. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Meaning of Community – A Bovina Story

  1. Bovina center sounds warm welcoming and a real community You are blessed to have lived there and been comforted by them. Love the beautifully written story,abby


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s