This was the table I grew up with, this was the table we sat around as a happy and complete family. It was wooden, a light pine colour, but it wasn’t pine. The chairs around it were wooden, with straw like cushions. The table could fit 8 people comfortably, 3 on each side, and one chair at each end.
My Mum never used a tablecloth, so the table always felt a little sticky, a little stained, usually with some crumbs still lurking around. My Mother wasn’t slovenly, but she wasn’t a clean freak, so the kitchen felt relaxed and lived in, homely.
We had a dresser on the wall decorated with Spode plates and a small TV resting on the side. Every day after school, I would turn one of the end chairs to face the TV and literally watch every single kids show from 4.30pm until 6.30pm whilst my Mum pottered around the kitchen, preparing food, talking on the phone to family or friends.
During this time, my Mum was a Housewife and she dutifully cooked our meals. She was a skilled cook, having studied ‘cookery’ and back then, the division of labour was fairly distributed between my Mother and Father.
My Dad worked long days, he would pick up my big sisters who finished school later than me and we would sit around the table, have dinner, and watch more TV. We watched British Soap Opera’s Eastenders and Coronation Street. We would always have the TV on, which kind of seems shocking to me now and a little sad that we didn’t talk more.
I can see the blue and white china ware, little side salads in dishes, Spaghetti Bolognese, maybe some Garlic Bread. That was the routine, and I remember it well until the day that changed everything.
When I woke up in the morning and heard my eldest sister Lisa crying and my Mum comforting her. I rushed into her bedroom and asked, ‘what are you arguing about now?’ and my Mum, sitting on the side of Lisa’s bed, while she comforted her, she looked over to me and said, ‘we are not arguing Darling, your father died last night!’
And then, she instructed me, to go downstairs where my Grandparents were in the kitchen. I ran downstairs and there they were, Nanny and Grandad, my Fathers parents, sitting at our sticky kitchen table, facing the direction of the kitchen door, ready to comfort us. I remember that vision, so clearly, of them sitting there at that kitchen table. I don’t remember their words, I don’t remember them even crying, but they were there to hug me and receive me, embrace me and hold me at that hard wood table, on those hard wood chairs, but yet it was warm and familiar, it was my home. It was my safe familiar place, in the kitchen, the heart of our home.
Little me, not having any idea of the impact of that morning, how it would shape me, or how life would unfold from then onwards.
My Mum started to work full time, ready meals replaced home cooked meals, my sisters left home, a new father figure came and left, boyfriends came and the warmness and comfort, the same sense of safety and security was never really there after my Father was gone.
That kitchen table represented the time when we were full and complete, when things were steady and stable, grounded and down to earth, innocent. Sticky and natural and unpretentious.
And interestingly I never felt attached to it, not surprisingly for me, I trained myself to be unattached. But my sisters saved furniture, which they have in their homes today. But neither of them thought to thought to save the table for later years. That sort of sticky table, the nothing special table, but on reflection, BDD, Before Dad Died, it holds these happy and solid times