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

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me to a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I found so many opportunities to grow: 10 year facilitator for an online writing circle of women writers across the country; thirteen year editor of the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal; a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site; program chair for two Stories from the Heart national conferences in Austin, T. Presently I'm teaching Women's Life-Writing and Older Women's Legacy workshops in my part of the world in Central Virginia and facilitating the ongoing Circle of Memories Writing Circle (formerly an OWL workshop that continued on) at the Crozet Public Library. I am blessed with three wonderful children, a son and two daughters; a small, huge-hearted family; dear friends; my beagle Addie and cat Button. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. All these years later, I'm scheduled to publish my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, in 2018.
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


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