You wouldn't know it to look at me, but my "nerve center” has been removed. It's true. You've heard of hip replacements, or knee replacements? Well I've had a refrigerator replacement, and when I say my nerve center has been removed I'm referring, of course, to my refrigerator door – that vast expanse of baked-on harvest gold (yes, it was that old!) which served as the epicenter for the comings and goings of my family for almost two decades.
Nowadays refrigerator replacements are fairly routine. Nevertheless – as those of you who've had one will attest – it can still be a very painful ordeal. Not surprisingly, like most people facing this type of procedure, I put mine off way too long. Oh sure, there were early warning signs, you know – a funny sound, the occasional odd smell, that sort of thing – but I didn't pay much attention. Then I began to experience unexplained temperature spikes and sudden chills and even an outbreak of black moldy spots. Still, like a fool I just ignored them, telling myself, "It's probably nothing.”
Over time the problem got worse and worse, like the night those awful violent shakes started right before a big dinner party. Alarmed, I frantically called the repairman who, thankfully, pulled me through it, but not before issuing a stern warning: "This really needs to come out” he said. "We got lucky today, but we're just buying time.” Deep down inside I knew he was right. Something needed to be done; yet I kept saying, "Not now. Not today.” I promised myself that once everybody had graduated; as soon as all the college kids stopped filing in and out; after our daughter's wedding; before grandchildren came along – I'd take care of it. But of course I didn't.
Then one morning I awoke to an eerie silence. There was no familiar hum. No whirr of water refilling the icemaker. No cha-clunk of frozen cubes dropping into the bin. It had finally happened. Sometime during the night my awful, beloved, ugly old harvest gold refrigerator had died. Standing there in stunned disbelief I suddenly remembered the ten pounds of beef tenderloin and two dozen lobster tails I had bought the day before for my in-laws' anniversary party. I threw open the freezer door in hope against hope that they could still be salvaged… But it was too late. All that remained was a warm, dark, dripping, rancid, expensive testament to my own selfish procrastination.
The next day, after the lifeless carcass had been removed, they brought in one of those new stainless steel jobs that are all the rage. I hadn't seen anything this futuristic since visiting the house at Disney's "Tomorrowland” in 1964! Everyone who saw it marveled at how sleek and sophisticated it made my whole kitchen look, but to me it just seemed cold and impersonal, and I absolutely hated it.
I kept right on hating it too, until about a week later when I had an epiphany. "Wait a minute!” I shrieked. "I know why it seems heartless! It doesn't have a nerve center!” Excitedly I retrieved the shoe box full of stuff that had been hastily pulled from door of the other refrigerator right before they carted it off. Just seeing the contents made me smile – my dental appointment card, the post-it reminder to refill my hormone pills, the invitation to Alissa's wedding, my granddaughter's handprint turkey, that hilarious Far Side cartoon, even the postcard Marc sent me from Paris with the picture of a voluptuous French girl on the front and his inscription "Wish you were her”. It was all there, just waiting to breathe new life into this austere appliance.
With trembling fingers I eagerly placed my favorite quote under its usual tacky Betty Boop magnet… and immediately both fell to the floor. I tried again. Same thing. Something was wrong – horribly wrong. No matter how hard I pressed, nothing would stick. And then, in a single painful instant it hit me. One: magnets don't work on stainless steel; and Two: My nerve center was gone forever.
It's been four years now since my refrigerator replacement, and I'm finally beginning to make peace with this stark gleaming presence in my kitchen. I've even gotten used to and – dare I admit it – learned to embrace the de-cluttering of my life. But every time I see a really cute, quirky refrigerator magnet…it still hurts…just a little.