Mrs. Douglas MacArthur’s Tablecloth (idea) and Me

I don’t actually own Mrs. Douglas MacArthur‘s tablecloth, but I own one like it.

What is that tablecloth?

It’s a white tablecloth she used whenever she served dinner to foreign dignitaries.

Whenever everyone finished eating, she handed them a pen and asked them to sign the tablecloth.

She then had it embroidered.

Can you imagine the names that must still be embroidered on two (or possibly more) tablecloths she owned?Tablecloth, Mrs. Douglas MacArthur's tablecloth, famous signatures, hospitality, General Douglas MacArthur, embroidery, Sharpie markers, memories

Especially those signed during the years General Douglas MacArthur served as supreme commander of American forces?

I can’t either.

But I have one of my own.

The original idea

I bought a white cotton-polyester blend tablecloth fairly early in our marriage.

Somewhere, I’d heard of Jean Macarthur’s ingenious idea and thought I’d try it, too.

I had no idea if my Navy guy would become a famous military officer (he did not), but I realized we’d meet a lot of people over the years.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have their signatures–especially if I never met them again?

How it worked

Back in the dark ages when I didn’t have any children, I handed out pencils to my guests after dinner and asked them to sign.

Tablecloth, Mrs. Douglas MacArthur's tablecloth, famous signatures, hospitality, General Douglas MacArthur, embroidery, Sharpie markers, memoriesThe next day, I embroidered all the names.

Only then could I wash the tablecloth!

(Hey, even wine stains came out–that cotton blend did the trick, along with hanging it on the line in sunlight).

Once the kids came, however, I simply couldn’t keep up.

So, I bought a box of Sharpies and handed out markers after dinner.

People were also given leeway to add the date, draw a picture, whatever.

We simply wanted to remember them.

Dinner Guests today

My husband retired from the military a long time ago, but the tablecloth continues to adorn our table when we have guests.

It amazed prom-goers in one small town–few of whom had ever seen a table set with silver, china and crystal glasses.

They signed with the date and the notation “prom!”

We’ve lived in our present town long enough that folks have returned to dine on many occasions.

Last week several sat around the table looking for their names and exclaiming over people they knew.Tablecloth, Mrs. Douglas MacArthur's tablecloth, famous signatures, hospitality, General Douglas MacArthur, embroidery, Sharpie markers, memories

Several signatures stand out and always provoke comments.

People periodically request I embroider their names for posterity.

I smile politely and volunteer to hunt up floss and a needle for them.

No one has taken me up on it–yet.

What it means to us

I examine the names and faces spring to mind.

I don’t even remember who some of the people were–and I don’t know where they are now.

What became of the Pakistani naval officer we knew at post-graduate school?

Tablecloth, Mrs. Douglas MacArthur's tablecloth, famous signatures, hospitality, General Douglas MacArthur, embroidery, Sharpie markers, memoriesWhere is the lovely Thai girl who included a rose?

I don’t know, but I remember them.

My daughter loved the idea so much, she requested a tablecloth of her own when she graduated.

She put it out at her party and invited her guests to sign.

It will be interesting, someday, to learn what happened to those young people just on the cusp of adulthood.

Mrs. Jean MacArthur, an exemplary military wife and hostess, I’m sure, would be proud.

Do you have a souvenir of dinner guests?

Tweetables

Emulating Mrs. Douglas MacArthur with a tablecloth. Click to Tweet

A tablecloth full of memories and signatures. Click to Tweet

Commemorate dinner–why not sign the tablecloth? Click to Tweet

Every month in 2017, I’ll be telling the stories about God’s leading and my blessed–and astonished–reactions while writing Mrs. Oswald ChambersOswald Chambers' Bible, Wheaton College Special Collections Library, what Bible did Oswald Chambers use? Lecture outlines in the Bible

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