Company for Dinner

by Marilyn Linford

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    “Thanks for vacuuming, Anne. Now please go get ready and put on your Sunday clothes,” Mom said, as she placed her best china plates on the table.

    “Sunday clothes? But this is Monday,” I protested.

    “Remember, we’re having company for dinner,” she said.

    “How could I forget after all the work I’ve done? But why Sunday clothes? We didn’t have to wear Sunday clothes for our other guests,” I complained.

    “Anne, please just do it,” Mom concluded, as she rolled the green cloth napkins and slipped them into the napkin rings.

    Always before Dad and Mom had told us who was coming. My Dad has this thing about inviting people over to eat with us. The first time he invited someone, it was a returned missionary from Argentina. Mom fixed food from Argentina called milanesa. Before this missionary came, Dad made us learn where Argentina is on the globe, what the people and the weather are like, and what Argentina’s main exports are, so we could carry on an intelligent conversation.

    Dad had such a good time that about a month later, he invited the bishop and his family to have dinner with us. The bishop had been to Hong Kong on his mission, so Mom prepared Chinese food. Before the bishop’s family came we had to be able to, you guessed it, locate Hong Kong on the globe. We also had to learn the books of the Old and New Testament and of the Book of Mormon. Dad thought it would impress the bishop, but it was a little hard to work it into the conversation.

    A few months later Dad got really brave and invited his boss to dinner. Dad is a chemical engineer and works for a petroleum company. The company makes gas and oil and bug spray and things like that. I asked Mom if we were having petroleum products for dinner. She laughed and said, “No, stuffed pork chops.”

    Before the boss came we not only had to learn about the Alaska pipeline, off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and how to squeeze oil out of rocks called shale, but we also had a review of manners and etiquette.

    We spent days putting napkins on our laps, keeping our elbows off the table, chewing with our mouths closed, speaking only when spoken to, etc. The boss turned out to be very nice, and he seemed to like us.

    A few months later Dad was at it again. It began when a notice came in the mail that one of the senators from our state, Senator Brown, would be in town to give a lecture about what was going on in Washington, D.C. When Dad mentioned that he was going to call this senator and invite him to dinner, we all begged him not to do it. Mom said senators don’t have time for such things. But Dad was undaunted (that’s one of the week’s vocabulary words) and called the senator’s office. He even got to talk to the senator.

    The senator said he was sorry, but all his evenings were busy, so he couldn’t come to dinner. Now my dad is a quick thinker and just like he’d planned it, he said, “Well, then, how about coming to breakfast?”

    Senator Brown is no match for my Dad, and he certainly was not prepared for that and couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough, so he said, “Yes.” He actually said he would come.

    Before he came you can imagine what we had to learn. Did you know there are 435 congressmen in the House of Representatives, 100 senators in the Senate, that a senator is elected to a term of six years and a congressman for two? We were crammed full of facts, and we got Mom’s now famous manners and etiquette review.

    The morning the senator came, a newspaper reporter did too. The reporter took our pictures with Senator Brown and wrote down all about how the senator was having breakfast with this family. It was kind of embarrassing and was even more embarrassing when the picture and article were in the newspaper.

    Well, Dad had not taught us one thing to impress his latest guest, and Mom hadn’t explained why we had to wear Sunday clothes. In fact, they wouldn’t even tell us who was coming.

    Mom had fresh flowers, candles, and her very best lace cloth on the table. She made us work to clean every inch of the house. She even got her hair done at the beauty shop.

    I said, “Hey, Mom, please tell me. Who is coming? If he’s such an important person, how could he have time to come to dinner with us?” She just smiled and asked me to refill the ice cube trays.

    Soon the house was ready, the food was ready, all five of us children were bathed and dressed and ready in our Sunday clothes. There was soft music playing. Mom and Dad seemed happy and peaceful, not nervous like when our other guests were coming. It was 6 o’clock. The guest would soon be here.

    At 6:30, the guest hadn’t come. At 6:45 we were still waiting. We were all hungry. “Who is this most important person, anyway?” I asked impatiently.

    Just then Dad and Mom called us to the table, and Mom lit the candles. “Let’s begin,” said Dad.

    “How can we begin? We can’t start without our guest! We’ve gone to too much work. Who are we waiting for anyway? The president of the United States?” I said.

    “Sit down, all of you, and we’ll give you some clues to see if you can guess who our guest will be,” said Mom.

    “This person is more important than the president of the United States. But even though he is so important, he knows you very well,” said Dad.

    “Is this a trick?” I asked.

    “Not a trick,” Dad answered.

    Dad continued. “This person is smarter than my boss or the senator. He is more spiritual than the missionary or the bishop. Yet, as important as he is, I didn’t even have to make an appointment with him.”

    “Let’s kneel down and have family prayer to begin our dinner and home evening,” said Mom.

    Suddenly, as we knelt around the table and Dad began to pray, I got this special feeling. Then I knew. Dad and Mom had gone to all this work to teach us about Heavenly Father. He is much more important than anyone else, and we don’t have to make an appointment to talk to him.

    Everyone else must have figured it out too because after the prayer we ate in silence for a long time.

    Finally, Dad said, “I hope you will invite Heavenly Father to be your guest in everything you do.”

    Illustrated by Phyllis Luch