Handwarmers for Mr. Hughes
|01/06/2018||Posted by Jane under bits and pieces|
We drove to the Durham Farmer’s Market this morning bundled up like we were headed for the ski slopes. The cold weather has kept us inside, but we had been looking forward to venturing out for breakfast and the market. We agreed that we wanted plenty of veggies, but not so much that they’d go bad before we could eat them. At the top of our list were collards and Brussels sprouts. Anything beyond that in this freezing weather would be gravy.
As we rode, I scolded myself for forgetting to grab the pack of “Hot Hands” from the counter … I’d planned to take them to Mr. Hughes. It’s so cold, and I had an idea he’d be sitting in his truck keeping warm while his two employees sold the goods.
We always head straight for his stand … the owner and third generation organic farmer of Pine Knot Farms and one of our dear favorite farmers at the market. We love to load up on his beautiful kale, sweet potatoes, collards, black eyed peas, and anything else he has to offer.
A sweet and gentle old soul, always with a twinkle in his eye and a gentle smile. We take every opportunity to give and receive a cheerful greeting. When we don’t see him we always ask, “Did you leave Mr. Hughes at home today?” or “Was it too cold for Mr. Hughes to come with you today?” More often than not, they reply that he’s just sitting in the truck to get warm, or to stay cool, or just to rest. Many Saturdays, he and Frank tease about something or another. More than once we’ve walked away from his stall with a tear in our eye … always a smile in our heart.
He has taught me how to make glazed beets, and turnips, and parsnips … “How should I cook these?” I’ll ask … knowing that some old southern recipe is soon to follow. “I’ll tell ya what ya do …” as I stand transfixed. As I stand in his presence … honored and humbled, by this man.
Because of the cold, there were very few people at the market, but we scurried to his stall to grab up anything he had to offer. I was relieved to see that there were several batches of collards left.
“Where’s Mr. Hughes today? Too cold for him to come out?” Frank asked.
“Did you not know? Mr. Hughes passed away, the week before Thanksgiving. That’s why he hasn’t been here.” We were stunned, instantly saddened, our hearts hurt. Gone? Passed away?
We moved in November, so haven’t been to the market. We hadn’t seen his absence. We offered condolences.
We walked in a state of disbelief. Like there was before and after. We’d never see him again.
And I began to feel sad and somehow cheated, that he hadn’t told us he’d be leaving.
This morning we bought from his stand, exactly … collards and Brussels sprouts. We’ve spent the afternoon cooking.
As I washed and cut the collards I was overcome with quiet gratitude, at the countless Saturdays that we’d given and received kindness, joy, recipes … love for another human being that we deeply respected and cared for.
I washed and trimmed the Brussels sprouts standing in a space of gentle care, kindness, and gratitude for the times we interacted with him, even just for a moment.
As we always said when we left his stand on Saturday mornings … “Thank you Mr. Hughes. You take good care.”
I hope your hands are warm, and your spirit is free. I hope you’re eating all the delicious food you couldn’t eat as your health failed. I hope you are flying free with the angels, and keeping them all supplied with greens and sweet potatoes. We will miss you ~