One of my fondest childhood memories occurred during holidays when my mother allowed me to choose the place settings we used on our table when company was coming. I felt grown up, that my opinion mattered, and it showed my mother had confidence in my ability to pull off the most important part of the event…the table! I would plop myself on the floor, meticulously examining each plate. I carefully placed each item in front of the designated chair, always curious about the seating order of the guests my mother would assign (she did not leave that part up to me!). After my carefully designed tablescape was completed, I would don my clothes in preparation for the coming gathering. Impatiently, I waited for everyone to arrive. I could feel my heart race while I searched for the first signs of guests pulling into the driveway. Suddenly, I could hear those car doors close, and I would race to the entryway trying my best not to swing the front door open until the doorbell rang. The excited voices, the big bear hugs, and the exchange of kisses represented the pure joy that came from seeing friends and family. When it was finally time to share a meal together, I beamed with pride when our guests took their seats at my table. I grinned ear to ear when Mother’s voice filled the air informing everyone, I had been in charge that day. When I look back at those special moments, I realize it was not the elaborately decorated table that brought my joy. It was what each setting, each table, represented. A celebration was about to occur, and a party signaled we were preparing to extend hospitality to the world around us. There is a difference between hospitality and entertaining, and although my parents loved entertaining, it was their display of hospitality that shaped who I am today.
For me, hospitality meant that warm, comfortable feeling of friends and family together at Christmas. It meant times of laughter during Halloween parties where you chuckled so hard you thought your sides would burst. It meant watching a tear roll down my father’s cheek while he listened to patriotic songs on July 4th (I am convinced dwelling on his time in service during the Korean War). It meant playing with children in total abandon and without fear, because we knew the family around us would slay any monster we encountered. Most importantly, sitting around the table meant soaking up knowledge from those wiser and older. Entertaining was just the tool used to teach the next generation. It was where we learned commonsense, faith-based advice. Yes, I learned manners and how to entertain. I learned the importance of living an organized and orderly life. I learned how to be a parent and thrive in a family unit. But the real gift was the decades of wisdom I internalized by immersing myself in the words spoken by the adults around me. I observed and learned, and I saw the woman I wanted to become through the role models that surrounded me.
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