The refrigerator died. I always knew it was going to—this isn’t our first refrigerator, and it’s lasted a really long time, but I always thought of its eventual death the same way I think of the sun eventually exploding. Yes, it’s going to happen eventually, but it’s not something I have to worry about today. Except in the case of the refrigerator today arrived earlier this week. Hopefully the sun exploding will stick to its current schedule of happening in approximately five billion years, by which time we will have gone through a few more refrigerators.
It’s really hit me how much I take the refrigerator for granted, it’s always been a reassuring presence, and how true it is that you don’t really miss something until it’s gone. Sure, the ice maker never really worked properly, and if you closed the freezer door too hard the refrigerator door would pop open, or vice versa, but at least it kept things cold. Still, as problems go, it’s a relatively small one, or rather it’s relatively six feet tall, three feet wide, and about three feet wide. It’s substantially bigger than the refrigerator my mother-in-law has in her basement and which, in spite of being made back when Leave It To Beaver was in its original run, is still working, unlike ours which, if I remember correctly, we purchased about fifteen years ago. And we have another small problem: newer refrigerators are even bigger, but the doors on our house, which also dates from the 1950’s, are still the same size. So we had to find a refrigerator that will fit into our home because leaving it outside isn’t an option. Also I don’t want a “smart refrigerator” that says things like, “Hey, I noticed you’re running low on milk. I’ll order some for you if you’ll just give me your credit card information which I promise I won’t give to some guy in Uzbekistan unless you decide to microwave that fish you’ve got in my bottom drawer.”
I know when we’re low on milk which brings me to the other problem which is only metaphorically small, and that is the new refrigerator couldn’t be delivered for three days. Three days! Normally three days goes by in a matter of minutes, except when I have a dental appointment coming up or, well, when we’re waiting for a new refrigerator to be delivered. It’s not like the dryer going out, which happened last year—that was fine because as long as we had sunny days I could hang up the towels to dry. Try doing that with leftover chicken curry. It’s just inviting the neighborhood raccoons to drop in. So the three day wait lasted at least a month.
We have managed a stopgap measure. First we threw out a bunch of things that should have either been eaten or thrown out a lot sooner, but that just caused me to reflect on how you don’t know what you’ve got in the refrigerator until it dies, and we packed everything we wanted to save into coolers and I’ve been buying bags of ice regularly at the mini-mart down the street. That’s got me asking questions like, will skim milk last longer than whole milk? What about half and half? Will it last twice as long? Does ketchup really need to be refrigerated? And what about Gary at the mini-mart? He’s seen me every time I go in to buy more ice and I feel like I’ve become a reassuring presence in his life. Will he miss me when I’m gone?