In the summer of 1984, I was twelve years old. Most afternoons around 5:30, I was "whistled home" for dinner. If I couldn't hear my dad's whistle then I was too far away from home. I'd been playing with the kids in the neighborhood and my stomach growling alerted my ears to start listening for my Dad's distinctive signal. It had three notes and by today's standards would sound like a car alarm with a quick start and stop. I ran home as soon as I heard it and hit the kitchen sink for a quick wash of my hands. I grabbed some napkins and silverware and started setting the table (one of my easier chores to get my allowance). I sat in my seat at the kitchen table by forcibly wedging down into it. I didn't pull the seat away from the table, rather I crammed in which often wrinkled the vinyl table cloth and snagged the braided rug with the chair leg. My procedure lacked grace but this time I only received Mom's raised eyebrows and a sigh.
Dad walked back into the kitchen. He had changed from his business suit into clothes which to me didn't look any less uncomfortable. A button-down, maybe a light cardigan, slacks and loafers. He didn't even wear sneakers. Maybe Dad should come to dinner wearing a t-shirt and shorts like I did. My bare feet were swinging under the table while we waited for mom to plate up.
She sat down and I got into praying position: elbows on the table, fingers knitted together and head resting on the tripod this created. We were having spaghetti and I was hungry. The sooner we prayed, the sooner my stomach would hush.
Suddenly, the whoosh of air above my head scared me out of the blessing position. My eyes were fully alert, staring at my Dad who was holding my ball cap. Now my hair was loose and falling into a mess of frizz and curls on my shoulders. I felt my cheeks redden from embarrassment and the heat from my hair which was sticking to my neck.
I didn't take my eyes off of my him, but I pushed back some damp curls from my forehead.
He said, "DO. NOT. EVER. wear a hat at the table. And from now on, hang it up as soon as you come in the back door."
I nodded as I watched him toss my cap on the counter. "Okay, but can I ask why?"
My mom took over and explained, "It's just good maners and shows respect. It's as basic as saying please and thank you. It's like pulling off to the side of the road when you see a funeral procession, or taking your hat off during the Star-Spangled Banner. It's polite, like letting the elderly go first when eating, or holding the door for the person behind you." She paused and then with a satisfied chuckle, "It's just good-home training."
This memory has been with me for nearly 30 years, and it's stayed with me as an important family value. When I go into a restaurant *any restaurant* and I see someone wearing a hat at the table, I want to flip it off of them like my dad to me. I wonder if others find this show of respect as important as I do. I was curious as to what the *official* stance on hat wearing at the table was so I went to a leader in all things etiquette, Emily Post.
According to www.emilypost.com:
Knowing when to remove a hat is as important as wearing the right hat for the occasion. ...In today’s casual culture men and women still remove their hats as a sign of respect. Cancer patients are exempt from hat rules. They may keep their hats or caps on at all times if they wish.
Take hats off, including baseball caps... In someone's home * at mealtimes, at the table * while being introduced * in restaurants and coffee shops * at a movie or any indoor performance * when the national anthem is played * when the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade.
Bingo! I couldn't agree more! Thank you, Emily Post.
My parents must have had "good-home training" too.
Seeds to share:
Matthew 19:19 - Honor your mother and father and you shall love your neighbor as yourself
Luke 6:31 - And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.