My first memory of the dining table was cycling around the kitchen on my tiny tricycle as a two year old and smacking my head off the old table as I had still to develop spacial awareness. This old white dining table was where our family first dined together. My mum, dad, sister, brother and I would sit around the table and eat together as one big happy family. Well that was until my parents divorced.
Every evening dinner (or “tea” as called in Birmingham) would be prepared and we would all sit down together and discuss the days affairs. Well, when I say discuss, it wasn’t really much of a conversation, mum and dad would generally ask how the day was, whilst my sister and I would be amused watching our baby brother constantly try and miss putting food into his mouth. On occasion the dinner served up was either not of my liking or there would be something far more important to be doing than eating, such as building a den in my bedroom or hiding my sisters things. However, when these occasions arose, the option of jumping down from the table to pursue the fun activities was strictly forbidden, the rule was that you didn’t leave the table until your plate was clean.
The majority of the time I would stick to this rule, alas as with all rules, they are made to be broken and I would think of many ways to try to convince mum I had finished. It ultimately came down to two options; one, hiding leftover food in some way or two, declaring the food left over was unfit for consumption. The first option often involved pockets, ideally there would be some kind of paper to wrap said leftovers to put into a pocket, but if it came down to it, that mashed potato would just get stuff straight into an empty pocket to discard down the toilet at some convenient time. The other, less messy option would be to turn on the toddler charm and say you were full. This option very rarely worked, as mum would have carefully served up an edible portion size, so she knew full well you weren’t full and had another agenda. This in turn would require the “I don’t like this food” card to be pulled out.
There was one such occasion where I was just having no luck, my eagle eyed mum was watching for disappearing food, the above card had been played and rejected and the dinner put before me was now getting cold. After an hour I was still sitting at the table, my mum determined that I would finish the food. There was nothing left to do, I reached over for the pepper pot and whilst mums head was turned I slightly loosened the cap and put the pot back next to the salt. I then asked if I could put salt and pepper on my food and with approval, I reached over for the salt and pepper. Salt was applied vigorously to which my mum smiled at the sight of this stubborn child taking out his frustrations. The smile didn’t last for long as I released just as much frustration on to the pepper pot, with white pepper dousing both the dinner plate and most of yours truly. You would think at this point, a little pity would be shown and my escape from the dining table been successful. As with the majority of escape plans, this one failed and mum insisted I scrape off the pepper and eat what was remaining. Let’s just say I didn’t try that trick again.
Following the divorce of my parents, the old white dining table (who had begin to teach me its rules), moved with my mum, sister, brother and I into a council flat, whilst my dad moved on with a couple of bags. Almost everything was different following the divorce; new home, new location, new visiting schedules, new schools etc. However there was one thing that didn’t change and that was dinner around the old white table.
It’s quite strange how an inanimate object could have such a profound effect on my life and the values I still hold dear, now that I am a dad with a kid who will no doubt try to play the same tricks.