Our fridge finally died. Not all at once but slowly as if leaving us was something it was reluctant to do. One day the bread in the freezer was no longer frozen. The milk went bad long before it’s time. The rattle and loud hum of its motor could no longer be ignored. This refrigerator had been with us for 23 years. It was the first one we bought for this our first house. It’s the only appliance in all of those years that has not been changed. It could be now be called a plain old outdated fridge but when we bought it, it was shiny and new. As the years passed, this fridge became somewhat of a monument as it amassed our colorful family history on its doors.
It started with the magnets. We collected them from places we had visited or from friends who visited us from far off places and brought us a tiny piece of art from their part of the world. Over the years those magnets began to hold many things. First it was bills or appointment reminders but soon pictures began to appear under those little gems. The initial photos were of our children. Baby pictures, toddler poses. First grade and school photos, little league team shots. Halloween costume pictures, family Christmas cards. The gallery continued to grow as we added school pictures of nieces, nephews and cousins. Photos and postcards from trips, school events, family outings. BBQ’s, proms, weddings. Pictures of loved ones no longer with us. Graduation photos.
The refrigerator held this historical account of our family history steadfastly for many years. It held awards and letters. It held drawings and cards. It had times when it was somewhat empty and other times when it was full to bursting. It held the humble evening meal or the extravagant birthday party cake. Today on Cinco de Mayo, I reflect on how much guacamole and Pacificos that good fridge chilled. The many feasts and holiday meals it held in its spacious hold. It had been opened and pulled at a thousand times by tiny hands that became grown up hands and adult hands that now have age spots and wrinkles. All of that lively scenery on the surface took our eyes away from the rough and peeling handles. It detracted from the seal that was not quite sealing anymore. Finally we had to admit that this humble appliance had lasted far beyond what had been expected of it. People gasp in surprise when we tell them how long this fridge has lasted. It was time to purchase a new refrigerator.
The delivery day approached and we knew we had to remove the 23 years of history attached to that fridge. As we took down each magnet and each photo we paused to laugh or remember that moment captured in time. It was like a ritual and much like a prayer. We could not do it all in one day because the memories that were evoked were almost overwhelming. We had to savor them.
Some photos had been there so long they had to be peeled off the surface. But finally we were done. There was a barrenness left from all of those memories. There were random dark outlines like photo negatives that reflected the echoes of times past. In an effort to perhaps prove that he was not done yet, the fridge began his final days with an energy surge. The ice in the freezer was frozen again. Drinks were cold, vegetables were crisp. But we knew he had gone above and beyond his duties and now it was his turn to rest.
We have a shiny new fridge now. It stands proud in its strength and its youth. But it doesn’t hold memories close like our old fridge did. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe in the end, a fridge is just a tool to make our lives comfortable and our food safe. Maybe it’s not right to romanticize a large inanimate object. But therein lies the magic. All of our photos and bits and pieces of living brought that refrigerator to life or the closest it would ever get to being alive. And that is a beautiful thing.
Thank you, old friend. Rest now. Your work is done.