Dispatch from an Old Refrigerator

Last week, we finally took delivery of our brand new, sparkly, modern refrigerator. The one we purchased in May, but because of supply chain issues, yadda yadda yadda, we didn’t receive until now. It was worth the wait.

Our old fridge had been with us since we moved into our house, 26 years ago. It was a wonderful appliance, a dependable workhorse, the contents of which held countless meals cooked and shared over those decades. I don’t remember ever having to have it repaired and she was still going strong as we pulled her out last week.

When I told a few friends and family about getting a new model, some gasped in despair and asked, “What will you do with all those photos?” I hadn’t given it much thought, and answered, “Well, we’ll rip ‘em off and enjoy a clean slate of shiny stainless steel.” They seemed distraught and insisted that we find another way to honor those years of pictures, artwork, postcards and random magnets. A collage maybe? Shadowbox? Scrapbook? At parties and family gatherings, it was common for folks to stand and peruse the doors for new pics and reminisce about the old ones. Oddly enough, as I quickly stripped the old fridge clean on the morning of the new delivery, I felt little sentimentality. I was ready for that clean slate.

I have a friend who will often comment when I post pictures of my messy walk-in closet before I purged and cleaned it up, or my stack of beloved books perched precariously on my bedside table. “How can you live in that chaos?” she asks me. Her question has always felt a bit judgmental, and I thought of her as I looked at the “before” photo I had snapped of the fridge doors layered with memories. Messy. Chaotic. Disorganized.

Just like life.

Raising two kids, a dog and a couple cats in a marriage over twenty-plus years is chaotic. It is hard and dirty work. When I was in the throes of it, I never enjoyed those women who seemed to put a lot of energy into making everything tidy and pretty. While I always appreciate a good aesthetic, nothing trumps authenticity. Who wants to walk in and relax in a space that feels as sterile as a model home? Give me honest, quirky comfort any day of the week. God bless your mess and mine.

A few weeks ago, a dear friend came to visit from out-of-state. She and I had met when our sons were in kindergarten, and during those years when she lived nearby, we would frequent each other’s kitchen stools and counters. That night, I cooked dinner and we shared a bottle of wine, just like old times. The next day, over lunch and cocktails, she said, “You have no idea how much I have craved simply sitting in your kitchen with you as you cook, sharing a drink and laughs. I miss it so much.” Tears sprung in my eyes as she told me this. My kitchen is the heartbeat of my home, a reflection of all that I love, messy or not.

In a few months, we’ll be undertaking a big kitchen remodel. New cabinets, countertops, freshened floors and more. As someone whose love language is food and cooking for others, it’s something I’ve dreamed of for a long time, but was never in our budget until now. We’re at a point where the kids are moved out and the whole mess of us are all moving on to the next stage, whatever that might be.

And I’m ready for it–the blank slate, the gleaming fridge, the quartz and tile and everything new again. Those beloved photo memories tucked into a shoebox until I figure out what to do with them. But I already know the remodeled version won’t be better than the first—that heartbeat, that imperfect, outdated, messy, chaotic place where my family was raised and thrived, and where friends and all who gathered were loved and nourished for 26 years.

Not better, just different.