Monday, August 02, 2004

Farewell to a Faithful Fridge

[Today, a new refrigerator came to our house. That's not so momentous, to be sure. But with this new appliance, the one that's been in our kitchen since our place was constructed sixteen years ago, is being relegated to back-up status in the garage. There was however, another refrigerator of which we disposed today, an old Frigidaire, which until it completely died about a year ago, had been a member of my extended family for fifty-four years. Below is a September 17, 1997 column I wrote about that fridge. May it rust in peace.]

It's the Fridge That Keeps Going
Objects hold little sentimental value for me. But there is one inanimate gem I pass by every single day that arouses feelings of appreciation and something like wistfulness in me.

It's a refrigerator---a white Frigidaire that stands less than five feet tall and wobbles every time you open and close the door.

It can't make ice. It couldn't distribute cold water if it wanted to. The freezer is a tiny compartment just big enough to accommodate a half-gallon of ice cream and two ice cube trays. In fact, its overall capacity for holding goodies is, from the standpoint of a family living in the '90s, severely limited.

But, man, can that refrigerator keep things cold! And it's been doing so since 1950. That was the year my grandparents graduated from the Ralph Kramden-style ice box they'd used in their old house and bought the Frigidaire, placing it in the kitchen of their newly constructed home.

It gave many years of faithful service before they bought a bigger refrigerator. The Frigidaire thus inaugurated a new phase of its life when it was relocated to my grandparents' basement. Later, when they bought a bigger refrigerative behemoth, it became a third-string bench warmer. It sat, collecting dust, mostly unplugged and unused, in their garage.

Then in 1978, my wife and I moved out of the apartment we'd rented for nearly four years and into a house. My grandmother gave the Frigidaire to us. Suddenly, it was a first-stringer again.

In Fall, 1982, we moved so that I could do my year-long seminary internship in Michigan. That was followed by one more year of classes back at the seminary in Columbus. Everywhere we lived for those two years---we moved four times in that period---provided us with refrigerators. So, the Frigidaire was in storage until October, 1984.

That was when we went to the first church I served as pastor, a congregation in rural northwestern Ohio. We recruited a crack crew of movers who, unlike the drivers of those sleek orange moving vans you see on the interstates, drove a truck that reminded us of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. When the truck drove off for our new home, full of nearly all our earthly goods, I was sure it had no shock absorbers and I wondered if we would ever see our possessions again. Amazingly, our goods sustained few casualties from the trek.

But within hours of our arrival, it became clear that the Frigidaire was among the injured.

"It's 34 years old," I told my wife and a member of our church. "Maybe we ought to scrap it and buy a new one." My wife winced at the expense and the member intervened. "I've got a nephew who's a whiz-bang on Frigidaires," she told us. "Why don't I give him a call?"

It took three visits from the nephew to bring the refrigerator back to life.

When we moved to Clermont County (in a real-life moving van) back in 1990, the Frigidaire became a second-stringer again. The house we live in, built two years before our arrival, came with its own fridge.

But the ancient refrigerator is perhaps rendering its most noble service of all now. Every Saturday morning, members of Friendship Church and I share simple acts of kindness in the Name of Jesus Christ with our neighbors. For most of the past eight weeks that's meant giving away cold cans of Coca Cola. And guess where I'm cooling 144 of those soda pops every Friday night?

I don't know how old the Frigidaire is in "refrigerator years." Given the reality of "planned obsolescence," pretty ancient, I'll wager. But that ancient object from time to time incites me to mutter a little prayer, "Whether I'm young or old, God, help me to be such a reliable servant of You and others." And then, when nobody's looking, I pat it affectionately.

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