Weekend at the Fornelli’s

   I do not know Bob Fornelli.  I would not know Bob Fornelli if he kicked me in the shins.

But I used his shower, sat on his couch and slept in his bed.

To set up the story, our son-in-law was graduating from Emporia State last weekend. His parents and sisters were staying at our daughter’s, so we had reserved a motel room.  Jill Fornelli is a friend of Robin’s and emphatically insisted that we stay at their house while they were gone to Kansas City. I have seen Jill twice in my life and conversed with her once on the phone in which she convinced me she would be highly disappointed if we didn’t  just move in.

We were in awe at the hospitality.  Someone they don’t even know is going to let us invade their space, their California King Memory Foam bed, and  lounge in their pool-did I mention fluffy beach towels were laid out for us when we arrived?

The Fornellis have 3 cute girls, a dog named Nellie Fornelli and a gray cat named Francis.  Sadly, their beloved, Barkley, the yellow lab, had to be put down this spring.  The girls were with Mom and Dad or this invitation could have been a crafty way to get babysitting.   Nellie was farmed out somewhere.  All we had to be responsible for was Francis, who was freaked out by these imposters in her space and took on the persona of a phantom cat.

Sometime in the night, Francis got brave and snuggled in with our son, Cole.  At 6 am, my husband, Cliff woke up, put his feet on the floor and felt something mess with this leg.  Francis was saying ‘hello’ by sharpening her declawed paws on his calf.  When Cliff showered, Francis sat in the sink and watched to see if he used too much shampoo.  (Rumor has it that Bob Fornelli and Cliff are almost dead ringers in looks and personality, so maybe the cat assumed this was his guy.)  The cat followed him everywhere like a dog.

We were responsible for most of the post-graduation reception goodies, which would also be held at the Fornelli’s.  Cliff began making trips to the car to pack in the supplies.  I was scurrying around, when a panicked Cliff says, “Have you seen the cat?”

Such began a scene straight out of the movies as we searched for Francis to no avail. Cliff knew the cat had slipped out the door, never to be seen again.  Reluntantly we finally gave up the hunt, went to graduation, then hurried back to pull out the reception buffet with guests arriving soon after.  Cliff kept nonchalantly searching as he debated if he needed to make a trip to the pound to find a replacement and swing by Walgreens for a bottle of steel-gray hair dye.  I think the only thing that stopped him was he knew there was no way to train a cat to sit in the bathroom sink .

After the crowd left, we realized we had missed a prime opportunity.  A herd of kids had come with their parents, so we should have offered “Five bucks to whoever finds Francis!”  As we sat and recapped all the places she could be, Robin looks over at the mantel and says “Hey, Barkley’s ashes used to sit right here.”  Oh great, we now have lost the dog’s last remains as well as the family feline.  Robin assured us that they must have done something with them as she hadn’t noticed them the night before.  Whew!

Finally Cole discovered Francis under the ginormous bed in the shadows of the headboard.  Relief relaxed Cliff’s tense jaw-some from stress and some from rapidly chewing Nicorette gum for several hours.  We cleaned and packed up to vacate the premises.

Who trusts their beautiful home and their girls’ kitty to strangers?  Those with the gift of radical hospitality.  Robin testified that this is a way of life for them.  They delight in meeting people’s needs.  It didn’t matter to them (or us) that the girls’ domain upstairs was undergoing renovation. We wouldn’t have even noticed if we weren’t on the search for the Cheshire Cat. The privilege to give a gift to us outweighed the desire for perfection.

Sometimes I forget that. Can you relate? I think everything has to be perfect or it isn’t a gift of value.  If it isn’t pristine it is a reflection on me and failure on my part.  We miss the opportunity to bless someone else.  The fact is the construction endeared them to our hearts even more.

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully, administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:9


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