Several days ago, I was chatting it up with someone I met while standing in line somewhere, and as folks are prone to do, we got around to talking about where we live.

It’s always fun to learn that a complete stranger lives in the same town as me! As we talked further, about who we knew, etc., we found we had several mutual acquaintances. When she asked where I lived, I told her not only where I live, but where my parents lived, thinking she might know them. She couldn’t quite picture in her mind the home I was describing. Finally, as she guessed names further and further up the street, she asked me if I was talking about a house near the Watkins house.

When I told her that was, indeed, where my parents lived, she asked if I was a Watkins, and I assured her that I was their daughter. Then she surprised me by saying, “I brought a box of chicken to your house when your dad died!”

Now, about that box of chicken. First of all, it was from Publix, so … yum. I think Publix has about the best fried chicken around. The delivery was made while my mom, my brother, and I were up at Smith’s making the arrangements. And I believe that chicken was still warm when we got home. I believe, no I’m sure, that I dug around the box to find me a thigh and just ate it right out of the box, no plate required. No sides necessary. Just me and a warm piece of Publix chicken. In all its crunchy, fried chicken glory.

My nephew was at the house when it was delivered. I’m sure she told him her name, but he didn’t remember, saying only that it was someone who lived near the church. So for almost a year now, the Chicken Lady was a mystery. We never figured out who brought that wonderful box of chicken.

So how delightful it was to find out who the Chicken Lady really was! We had already had a nice little conversation about things, and the chicken situation was just an incidental discovery. It was an unusual encounter. I had given her a hug, and some words of encouragement, as she was anxious about her plans for the day. You can betcha I gave her a couple more hugs after I discovered that she had solved the mystery of the chicken delivery.

Because I’m so scatterbrained and forgetful, I even wrote her name down on my hand so that I could remember it when I told my mom later that evening. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree as she had been as bewildered as the rest of us.

The sweet lady told me she lost her husband recently and is having a very difficult time and apologized for getting teary-eyed. That’s actually how we figured out about the chicken because I told her I understand her grief and that mom is still dealing with it after losing my dad last February.

It truly is a small world, and this is one of the things I love about small-town living. She didn’t know my parents personally, but knew of them, and wanted to share her condolences in the traditional southern fashion, by bringing food for the family. My new friend is still in the early stages of grief, and getting accustomed to being without her husband. I think I will take her a box of chicken, and a long overdue thank-you note!

Cathy Watkins Bennett is a Barrow County native and a graduate of Winder-Barrow High School. Send comments about this column to bencath@aol.com.

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