One is a piano to bring music and harmony. The other is a good old table in the kitchen, to serve as the centrepiece of sharing, caring, love, laughter, and gatherings of family and friends…

Many years ago, I bought a battered oak table from one of those second-hand shops whose wares spill out onto the pavement. It wasn’t much to look at, and once I’d hauled it home, and our puppy had gnawed lovingly at one or two of the legs, it looked even less prepossessing.

I grew up with two kitchen tables. One had a table top of solid South African pine, and the other was topped with grey Formica. At those tables, we ate breakfast, lunch and supper as a family. At those tables, I baked with my mother and my grandmother.

My parents sat there once a month to do the household budget, trying desperately to draw blood from a stone, as one does. I even remember having a small birthday party around one of those tables.

It’s not home unless it has two things: a piano and a kitchen table

So for me, it’s not home unless it has two things: a piano and a kitchen table. I’d had the piano for a while, and now I finally had a kitchen table.

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

But it never really fitted into my old kitchen – not properly. The room was too narrow to cope with a central table, so it ended up against a wall. And each morning my daughters ate their breakfast there before school, which was fine, but it always felt like it was in the way, somehow.

After my divorce, however, despite being in a much smaller house and kitchen, the table finally found its rightful space. I have a fully functioning lounge and dining room, yet the kitchen seems to be the place everyone congregates in.

Friends or family come over, we make tea, and unless there are just too many people to fit into the room, we end up at the table. If I throw a party, half the people will be found in the kitchen, gathered around the table.

My children and I eat breakfast, lunch and supper there. It’s the place we meet every day to catch up, connect, share our stories from the day, have a laugh, and sometimes a cry.

It’s the place we meet every day to catch up, connect, share our stories from the day, have a laugh, and sometimes a cry…

One of my closest friends comes to stay whenever he’s in Johannesburg, and we’ve spent many an evening at my table, making terrible puns, trying to figure out life’s mysteries, solving the world’s problems, listening to music we’ve discovered, falling down YouTube rabbit holes… just hanging out and being friends.

Other friends have ended up staying for breakfast or dinner, when they’d just popped over for a quick tea. It’s the table, I tell you – it has nothing to do with my cooking. And even my children’s friends end up around that table. Many a sleepover has ended there, as teenage girls gulp down coffee and hoover up enough pancakes and bacon to feed a small country.

That table has heard its share of heartbreak and happiness. It’s held cups of coffee, and tins of shortbread, and roast dinners and chocolate cake. It’s been a makeshift desk when it’s too cold to go out to my office. It’s been carted outside on balmy summer evenings when eating inside felt disrespectful to the splendour of the night sky.

At one stage in the past couple of years I felt very un-tethered, very uncertain that I would even be able to have a home of my own, wracked with anxiety over where my children and I would be living. So sometimes, when I’m alone, I’ll take a big mug of tea to the table and just sit there by myself, pondering how lucky I am to have this table, in this kitchen, in this home – a situation for which I am grateful every day.

Article by Mandy Collins