Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Company Manners

The dinner was exquisite.
Every preparation completed.
Pressed, linen tablecloth. Pristine, individual napkins. The finest china and crystal.
Polished silverware.
And that’s where everything came to grief.
But I am getting ahead of myself . . .
My Dad’s eldest sister, Emily was hostess-ing a dinner party.
For her good friend and fellow teacher, Miss Duff.
It was to be a fairly formal affair, designed to impress her friend with the fact that Emily belonged to an excellent family of good breeding and proper deportment.
For a woman who taught proper deportment every day in her Home Economics classes, this was of vital importance.
Unfortunately, she made one mistake.
She invited said family.
All was ready.
Everything laid out in faultless order.
Emily glowed with pride as she surveyed her impeccable arrangements.
Perfect.
The invited guest and the family members assembled.
Amidst quiet exclamations over the exquisite settings and appetizing platters of choice food, everyone took their places.
My Dad, then fifteen, glanced down.
In keeping with the impression she was trying to convey, Emily had given each person their own polished and shining butter knife.
Maybe I should mention here that this wasn’t the usual tradition. No. In the Stringam household, one communal butter plate and a single knife were the norm.
Back to my story . . .
Dad picked up the knife. Made a show of studying it carefully.
Then held it aloft. “Erm . . . Emily?”
She looked at him.
“What is this for?”
All of her meticulous preparation and her attempts to appear elegant and refined were gone in an instant.
She put everything she had into the glare she levelled at her youngest brother.
Who simply grinned.
Just a note: If you are planning on hosting a party. And hoping for a chance to show your guests how refined and decorous your family is . . .
Don’t invite your family.

16 comments:

  1. Little brothers are most especially a pain!

    ReplyDelete
  2. If family will be there you might as well go with paper plates and serviettes and plastic knives and forks...and be sure you are careful who you give the knives to lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad to see you use the good old Canadian word "serviette", Delores! I have been trying for some years now to keep the word alive amongst our family, especially the grandkids. I find it so much more pleasant and refined a word than its common alternative. Keep up the good work. Serviettes forever!
      Diane's Anonymous-while-attempting-to-be-Decorous Husby-Figure

      Delete
    2. Delores, I agree completely. Who knew a little plastic knife could be used so creatively!

      Delete
    3. And Anonymous: Pffff!
      P.S. You know I love you! :)

      Delete
  3. This makes me wonder if I have taught my own kids well enough ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best keep them away from my Dad . . .

      Delete
  4. Kids! They won't let you get away with anything!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love my little brother, but I still won't invite him over if I'm trying to make a good first impression :)!

    ReplyDelete
  6. "What is this for?"
    I'm going to use that next time I eat out.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tell them you get all of your etiquette advice from your Canadian friends . . .

      Delete
  7. Tee-Hee! That's our family!
    Love
    Chris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We occasionally admit to belonging . . .

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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