Nostalgic story of how a family’s fridge art and magnets were a scrapbook before scrapbooking was in.
Story by Al Batt
Every refrigerator door tells a story. This one was a nostalgic shrine to the miracle of family and magnetism.
I was visiting a friend, sitting at the kitchen table as she brewed tea and made small talk about the weather. (It’s a Minnesota law. We have to talk about the weather.) I listened as best I could until my attention was drawn to the refrigerator door, which was bristling with magnets. That refrigerator had enough magnetic insulation to keep the cold in.
My friend noticed where my eyes had strayed. She told me her mother had died recently, and when the children picked out what they wanted from her possessions, she chose the refrigerator magnets. On days with sharp elbows, the fridge art of nostalgic magnets gave her comfort.
I understood how magnets and fridge art could be mementos of someone’s life. Magnets with funny slogans and intriguing shapes had turned the door into a nostalgic family photo album of fridge art. They also held crayon drawings, report cards, bills, menus, quotes, obituaries, business cards, phone numbers, recipes, greeting cards, letters, cartoons, newspaper clippings, coupons, notes, grocery lists—and a lifetime of fridge art and nostalgic memories. It would take a hardened soul to read a stranger’s refrigerator door and remain emotionally uninvolved.
I remember some of the things magnets held to my own mother’s refrigerator door—fridge art, sayings that made me contemplative and newspaper comics that made me laugh. A refrigerator door is an art show and a kitchen’s bumper sticker. It was a scrapbook before scrapbooking was in.
Mother had obtained her refrigerator long before there were colors like harvest gold and avocado green. Her appliance was an exotic hue called “white” and had three climate zones.
The first, closest to the door, kept things at room temperature. We put nothing there. The second zone was in the middle and maintained the temperature close to the expected level. The third area, at the rear, froze things. It was used only when we had to chill something in a hurry. Mom’s fridge needed to be defrosted sometimes, but the door got an annual spring cleaning.
A refrigerator door of memories is a family encyclopedia. It is a form of journaling; it serves as a communications center. In my bachelor years, I had more on the outside of my refrigerator than I had inside. The fridge art gave me something to read and took my mind off my hunger.
The current library of fridge art at the Batt Cave has been downsized for the sake of expediency. No reams of paper stick to it. Various electronic instruments of communication have usurped its information-exchange duties. But the door is still an important daily organizer. The magnets hold up messages, a notepad for grocery lists, emergency telephone numbers, photos, cartoons and other necessities.
The other day, my lovely wife and I were walking to Target Field to see the Minnesota Twins play baseball. I said to her, “I wish I had brought the refrigerator with me.”
She gave me that look she has become good at giving me. “Why on earth would you want to bring the refrigerator with you?” she asked. It was a reasonable question.
I replied, “Because our tickets are under a magnet on the door.”