Very early in our marriage, another couple invited the Preacher and I over. Nothing formal, just a simple, “Hey, you two. C’mon over for dinner on Wednesday.”
We did, happily. But as Ellen readied the meal, I noticed a piece of onion skin on the floor. I picked it up and held it where she could see it.
She laughed. Waved her knife in the general direction of the waste bin. “Oh, just put it in there. Around here,” she added, “you’re likely to find anything on the floor.” Her casual manner dismayed me. After all, an onion skin? On the floor?
I don’t know why that piddly little item has stuck in my memory, and nothing else. Not the warmth I know they would have showed us. Not the layout of the house. Not the funny stories about our pets, or the long good-byes at the door. None of that.
Just a fallen onion skin. But that half-inch long piece of transparent brown fibre blew the needle entirely off my 1980’s edition, uppity, ungracious personal scale of “correct hostess behaviour.” The one that included: Soft music. Candles. Table set. Best dishes. Perfectly cooked food. Fresh flowers. Most of all, impeccable house.
I’ve grown up a little in the three decades since. Today guests at my house may find, in plain view, many far more interesting items. Marker caps, parrot feathers, sunflower seeds, puzzle pieces, and far more, even after I’ve tidied up.
A few weeks ago, two other couples joined the Preacher and I for a “Guess Who’s Coming For Dinner” evening organized by our church. I tidied as best as I could in the time I had, then concentrated on the meal: roasted vegetables and a meatloaf that refused to stick together. The others brought scrumptious salads, and a tall glass bowl full of something called “Death by Chocolate.”
If anyone noticed anything on my floor (or elsewhere out of place) none of them pointed it out. And if they had, I think I would have responded like Ellen, “Oh, just put it in there. Around here, you’re likely to find anything on the floor.”
Here’s what I remember, and perhaps they will too: After we’d finished spooning out the meatloaf, and dying by chocolate, we sat at the table for two and a half hours. We talked long, told funny stories about our pets. We showed those who had never been to our house around, even the rooms I hadn’t made company-ready. We had a long good-bye at the door.
We had, in retrospect, what used to be called fellowship, not entertaining. Just plain folks eating plain food with other plain folks in a plain house we call home.
Some of us go to God’s house on Sundays, for a nourishing spiritual feast. Some of us enjoy his company, our worship, our fellow worshippers — and leave refreshed. Others of us pick up onion skins and leave complaining.
This Sunday, ignore the onion skins.