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.
June 2011 – I’m at the garage getting petrol and I meet one of my dearest pals. We hug. We laugh. We joke. She looks like she always does.
I know she was back at the Doctor. I want to ask but I don’t want to know. It hangs between us. She stands there looking as if nothing is remotely wrong. She’s out and about. Everything is normal.
It’s not good news. There’s no way back. How long? “Soon,” she replies. My heart breaks. I hug her again. I tell her how much I love her. She pushes me back telling me not to leave red lipstick on her cheek – as she always do!
We’ll see each other soon. We do. A couple of weeks later. In the Hospice. ‘Soon’ is too soon. In a matter of weeks, she’s gone. My heart breaks.
Seven years later, it’s still broken. I miss her so. xx
Christmas Eve always makes me feel lonely. This was our day – Dad’s and mine.
When I lived at home, I’d help him with his ‘shopping’. First off, he would stock up at Verlings Off Licence – always a generous man, the back of the car would be dragging when we left there. Then he’d take me somewhere lovely for lunch. I didn’t care where we went because it was always special – just the two of us.
When I was at college, he’d collect me from the flat. Bags of stuff and one hungover student put into the car. He’d take me for something to eat and we’d sink a few festive pints. He was always thrilled that at least one of his children drank Guinness, delighting in telling me that it would put hairs on my chest!
And after the chat and the laughs, we’d head home – into a flurry of last minute preparations, present wrapping, brussel sprout peeling, mushy pea soaking, before the influx of relations and friends over the following days.
When Dad passed, that all changed. The house fell silent. The preparations ceased. No one called any more. It was all so different.
Christmas changed again when I became a mum and marvelled at the excitement of my tiny tot waiting for Santa and delighting in all the presents she got. Having Christmas dinner with family is so wonderful.
And yet, there will always be a part of me that longs to be sat in ‘The Yacht’, sinking a few pints and spending precious time with that truly special man in my life – my Dad.