Company's a Coming
Mind yer Manners
Ever since I was a kid living with my parents, much ado was made when we had company coming. It might be family or some guest invited to Sunday dinner but we knew we must be on our best behavior. Company was almost anyone we did not see often and had been given a special invite, like the Pastor or maybe a school teacher or a boss or some other important person. All the stops were pulled, best china pulled out and set on a nice tablecloth with our best silverware. The meal would be specially prepared with wonderful food and special desserts. I loved it.
Manners and etiquette were always a priority and strictly enforced. Woe be unto us if we embarrassed our parents. Our hair must be combed or brushed, hands, faces spic and span and our best clothes were to be worn. "You all best not talk or speak unless you are spoken to and then be sure to say "M'am "to the ladies, "Sir" to the men folk and be sure to let company get first choice from that plate of fried chicken! Don't pick your nose, cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze! No scratching anywhere!!"
Somehow we managed to get through those special times when we had company without too much trauma. An occasional glass of milk might be spilt but for the most part we just sat, ate and listened to the grown ups talk, sometimes wondering if the only piece of chicken that would be left would be wing or God forbid, a neck.
I remember a story that was told at my elementary school about a family who was having company coming for supper. The guest was a Mr. Wilson who was the big wig down at mill where most of the folks worked. Mr. Wilson had a rather large nose and the children in the house were taken aside a long while before his arrival. The dad had set all children down and had given them the normal lecture about manners. He also forewarned them,"Don't any of you dare mention Mr. Wilson's big nose. Don't make fun of him. If you do you will be in big trouble.
Suppertime came and Mr. Wilson arrived right on time. He was an avuncular sort of man who seemed to enjoy cavorting with the children and talking to them about school and their activities. The meal was going great and the children were behaving like angels. "Yes Mr. Wilson, Thank you, Mr. Wilson, please pass the biscuits, Mr. Wilson, would you like some more mashed potatoes Mr.Wilson, and so on making mommy and daddy so proud.
Dessert was strawberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. The tradition here is for the adults to have coffee with dessert and the mom went to the kitchen cupboard to get cups. Coffee in those days was of the percolated variety and brought to the table and poured hot into the cups. The mom poured Mr. Wilson a steaming hot cup of black coffee, some for her husband and one for herself. The dad who had been so proud of his children wanted to be just as nice to his company but being a little too nervous of the prominent guest at his table exclaimed,"Cream and sugar for your nose, Mr. Wilson!"
I suppose you could have heard a pin drop as the room fell so quiet. The children looked at one another in total dis belief but could hardly contain the waves of laughter that could only be let out once they were dismissed from the table but once far away where they couldn't be heard, they let it all out.
We still like to have company. I tell folks, we always eat better when we have company. The tradition is alive and well in this house and I wouldn't have it any other way. Folks should do this more often. Invite a neighbor or someone special to come sit at your table. Treat them like family, share the love.
Having been raised in the South and especially in a rural setting, we seemed to always have company that had been invited to eat with us;however, there were those occasions when unexpected company showed up. For my parents this never presented a problem. My mom always prepared more than enough food for our family especially at the noon meal which here in the South is dinner. The main reason was the food we ate for dinner would also become supper with little extra preparations and food that needed to be prepared.
We lived in small village, Tuxedo, NC and there was one lady who would drop in without advance notice to many of the homes in the village at dinner time. Her husband was the local barber. Malvene and Earnest didn't have any children and she loved to visit and talk to everyone often sitting in the barbershop for hours after building a fire in the wood stove to heat the water for anyone needing a bath. In those days, some barber shops offered baths in addition to the normal fare of a haircut or a shave. Ernest had a room in back of his small shop for customers who also wanted to take a bath.
The village folk overtime had grown accustomed to the unexpected visits of Malvene and always made her welcome, though she had invited herself to have dinner. A neighbor told Malvene had been to the dentist and had all her teeth pulled. When she showed up at their house she ask the lady of the house, "Alice, do you have any soup?" I'm sure her request for soup was filled by her cordial neighbor. The stories abound about Malvene and her husband Earnest who were fixtures in our small village.
Being a Neighbor
Some years ago when my wife and I had bought our first house in an older subdivision we were totally like fish out of water. We didn't know our neighbors and our children were small. The children soon made friends with our close neighbor kids but the seven years we live there were some of the saddest and most stressful in our 42 years of marriage. We missed living in the country and the daily visits of family and friends who seemed to always stop in for coffee and fellowship.
It was a cold winter evening and my wife had made a huge crock pot of chili beans and corn bread for our supper. Our neighbors across the street we had learned had just buried a baby. My asked me to go over and invite them to come join us for supper. I walked across the street that night and knocked on the door. The man came to the door and i introduced myself and shared condolences. I noticed the electric stove door was open and the units were red hot. The house was cold and I surmised the oven was being used for heat. They gladly accepted our invitation for supper and we later developed a friendship. I'm here to tell you that crock pot of chili beans were better that night than a filet mignon with all the extras.
We learned the man was on a lay off from his job and the family was in need of financial assistance. I made a call to one of our deacons and our church was able to help them with a donation. The family eventually relocated but the company we had that night I feel was Divinely ordained and a special blessing for me and my family.
New King James Version (NKJV)
34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 Iwas naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feedYou, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’