Hospitality was held in high esteem in the Arnold household. If we kids grumbled about the hordes flowing in and out of our abode, the parents might say, “We could be entertaining angels.” That biblical morsel would mystify us, but never fully mollify.
Missionaries, actors, teachers, journalists, writers, preachers, freeloaders, hoarders, artists, strangers, students, politicians, all racial stripes, all gender stripes, rich, poor, ex-cons, addicts, alcoholics, the terminally ill, the greatest of these and the least; if you were at our house at the dinner hour, invited or uninvited, a plate was set, and a bed was made should lodging be required. If there were any angels in this disparate group, they came and went undetected.
There were guests who stayed for a few nights or a few weeks, and sometimes those who stayed to infinity and beyond. The weirdest experience I remember was when a marginal friend from college brought his new bride to Nashville for their honeymoon. He said he was too broke to afford a hotel and asked to stay with us. We knew the Bible said, “Angels do not marry or are given in marriage,” so we did not expect the newlyweds to arrive with halos and harps.
Now, when “two or more were gathered” at the Arnold hotel, my siblings and I could be displaced from our rooms, but on this occasion my brothers and I could sleep in our own beds. My sister happened to be away from home, so her room was available for the happy couple.
The “just marrieds” hardly made a sound. We could only imagine what was going on, or not going on in my sister’s room. The couple was invited to our evening meals, and my friend accepted a few times, but the bride never made an appearance. He took her meals up to their room offering a mealymouthed excuse for her absence. We never laid eyes on her after their initial arrival, not even accidental bump-ins at the one bathroom we all shared upstairs.
After several days of this absurdist drama, the couple slipped away while we all were conveniently absent. No note. No “thank you.” No nothing. Raptured, maybe? Within a few weeks, we got word that their marriage had been annulled, which explained the silence in my sister’s room. You just don’t realize how peculiar a situation might be until you try to describe it.
If you open your home to the world, you never know who might walk through the door. Perhaps entertaining angels would not be that weird after all.