That table, with its shabby chrome legs and scarred Formica top, was the centre of our kitchen. With knocks and kicks, enamel paint chipped off and rust settled in. The cover, with its once pretty flowers faded now through excessive scouring, held deep cuts from loaves sliced for hasty, tasty, sandwiches without board or care.
In its crevices lay remnants of our lives. While food was devoured there on a daily basis, it was also where big news was broken. Clustered around we learnt of many a relation’s passing. And it was here we were singled out for individual news. I must have been no more than three when I sat on a stool, elbows resting up on the table with legs, too short to reach the ground, swinging back and forth. In soft spoken voices, my parents performed a duet of scripted words of how they were not my real parents but minding me for another. And in turn, we all made this journey, sat at the table and tried desperately to absorb that same news which went way above our young heads.
When we saw the material, sewing box and our mother’s mouth full of pins, we’d balk and pray frantically it wasn’t our turn. Like so many women in the 1970s, she made most of our clothes and so often we endured the tedium of standing on the table as hems of dresses, skirts or trousers were pinned up for completion.
That table played host to family conferences where relations arrived and debates began. What would they do with the old house? The family grave? The old Retainer? Pots of tea plonked on the Formica surrounded by the good china with plates of cake and sandwiches presented frequently for consumption. And when the serious business was over, talk would turn to memory sharing and football rivalry. Squashed at the table were the sounds of chat, laughter and sometimes tears – of many people now no longer with us.
If the kitchen is the heart of a home then this table was its very soul.