Documenting our lives these days — and storing those memories — has become as easy as reaching for our phones. Long gone are the days of actual photo albums (with those lift-up plastic sheets and stick-on pages), of slide carousels (endless hours of summer-vacation viewing), of home movies shot on Kodak Super 8 cameras (“Come on, honey, wave at the camera!”).
But there is one old-school gallery of sorts that remains current for me — my refrigerator door. Because we don’t have kids, we’ve displayed our own “artwork” on it for years. Well, maybe not artwork — more like a collection that defines our life. And with our fridge of 22 years being replaced in a few days (by one that actually works), it’s time to curate.
First, the magnets. From all the vacations, including tons from national parks. From museum exhibitions, tiny bits of Van Gogh or Degas or Rockwell. The champagne bottle magnet. The blue Crayola crayon. The polar bear and the butterfly (sounds like the title of a book — or a comedy team). The one with the saying about pancakes.
Next, the photos. Some of family, some of friends, some of our dog Ilsa, who was the best dog in the world (no, don’t even attempt to argue with me here). Some of B. and me — strips of pics taken in those photo booths you find at the zoo or the boardwalk.
And then the other random bits and pieces that tell our story. Countless cartoons and comic strips, some really funny, others really sappy. A Lakers decal attached with a Lakers magnet. Lists of movies we want to see with titles crossed out as we progress. Fortune-cookie fortunes. Concert ticket stubs, Postcards from the edges of trips.
With a brand-new canvas on its way, it seemed like starting anew made sense. Because there was no way I was going to be able to redo my masterpiece. And that made me, well, not happy. To wit:
He: (seeing me moping in front of the fridge) “What’s the matter?”
Me: “It’s taken 22 years to get all this stuff on here perfectly and now it’s all over.”
He: (trying to tread lightly here, not knowing how much of a drama he’s in for) “Why not just put it up the same way on the new door?”
He: (cautious) “What?”
Me: “You think it’s so easy to remember where each piece goes? It’s taken me this long to get it looking like this. You think Michelangelo could just re-create the Sistine Chapel on a new ceiling?”
He: “Well, no but … this isn’t exactly that.”
Me: “Now you’re minimizing our life?” (eyes filling, ugly crying about to start)
He: “No, of course not, but it’s not that big a deal, Why don’t you –”
Me: “Not that big a deal?” (hands on hips) “I cannot believe –“
He: “Sweetie –”
Me: “Don’t ‘sweetie’ me! You have no idea –”
He: “Want some chocolate?”
Me: “Don’t try to distract me.” (gulp) “Okay … one piece.”
He: “All I was going to suggest … ”
Me: (giving him a dirty look around the chocolate bar)
He: “… was that you take a picture of the old door on your phone before you dismantle it.”
Me: (swallowing the chocolate and my tears — actually the sweet and salty combo isn’t bad)
He: “Wouldn’t that work? I mean, you’re the expert on the phone / photo thing, but maybe?”
Me: (sniffling up the tears) “Yeah. I knew that.”
He: “Of course you did. All better now?”
Me: “I’m good.”
He: “Great!” (runs into other room to hit his head against the wall)
And that is as much as a snapshot of our life as anything. Me, seeing the trees with all their pretty leaves and blossoms. And B., seeing the forest.
© 2020 Claudia Grossman