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Mind your manners

April 12, 2012

If there is to be any peace in a houseful of seven growing kids, there must be rules. Grandpa John had rules for the dinner table and brooked no disobedience. There was enough chaos at a dinner table for nine people without shenanigans.

There was to be no reaching, we were to pass the dishes in one direction, there were to be no elbows on the table, we were not to wash down our food with milk, and we were to clean our plates. Conversation was to be kept at a reasonable decibel level and no arguing was allowed. We were to behave as ladies and gentlemen. We almost did, usually.

Once in a while an argument would occur and would be squelched with a penetrating glare from Grandpa John. But one night some squabble wasn’t resolving and that upset Grandpa John. He went to hit the table with his fist to get all of our attention. On the table and directly below his thundering fist was a fork loaded with mashed potatoes that in frustration he had dropped, and forgotten. Instead of hitting only the table, his fist also landed squarely on the handle of the fork, catapulting potatoes high into the air. All eyes followed the potatoes as they soared, hit, and then stuck on the ceiling.

Someone snickered. Then another snickered. Then the potatoes lost their grip on the ceiling and fell to the table with a resounding plop! Grandpa John’s face was red and he was saying things, but I don’t think anyone was hearing him any longer. Then Grandma Beanie giggled. That was all it took to release gales of laughter from both sides of the table. All control was lost.

Grandpa John brought out his best booming voice and hollered, “Get out! All of you who can’t behave at the dinner table!”

For some reason that struck all of us as even funnier than the potato plop. Grandpa John hollered, “Go!” and we all fled to the front hall, holding stomachs that were aching from gut laughter.

We then heard, “You too!”

Grandpa John was hollering at Grandma Beanie! That had never happened before and, of course, caused the whole thing to be even more hilarious. Grandma Beanie, banished, joined the rest of us outcasts in the front hall, laughing and laughing.

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