Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It got colder — that’s where it ends...

Ding, dong, the fridge is dead! And long live the fridge!

Okay, it’s not quite dead, but the Eaton Viking model manufactured sometime in the early years of the Reagan Administration that has been chugging away in our kitchen since well before we moved in is slowly dying. And we are more than happy to pull the plug.

We’ve been eagerly anticipating the fridge’s demise for a while. Each time something goes awry, we call Franz, our inscrutable appliance repair guy, and I cross my fingers that he’s going to take a look, shake his head, and say, “You know, I think it might be time to say goodbye.” But he never does. Instead he tightens a hose or replaces the timing mechanism in his understated way, as I hover and ask leading questions. He never takes the bait.

“So,” I’ll say. “When, in your expert opinion, do you think we should call it quits and replace this thing?”

“That depends,” he’ll say. “But, generally, when it stops cooling things.”

It’s not quite that I need Franz’s permission to buy a new refrigerator. It’s just that it somehow feels more responsible to go purchase a major appliance “because our appliance guy told us to,” rather than “because it’s an ugly relic of the early 1980s.” I mean, take a look:

Yes, yes, I know that the newer fridges are much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, but I just would have savoured that little nudge from Franz in the right direction. (And, why, yes: those are white melamine cupboards! They go so nicely with the flowered linoleum floor, don’t you think? But I digress.)

In any case, Rachel and I noticed a puddle of water emanating from underneath the Viking a couple of days ago and decided enough was enough. We briefly consulted Consumer Reports, measured the space, hightailed it over to Sears and picked out a new — Energy Star–rated — model in basic black, in approximately 20 minutes. Our salesperson was an odd mixture of completely not homophobic and utterly sexist: got it right away that we were a couple, asked how many kids we had at home, compared notes with us on child-rearing, but also made fun of Rachel for being “a sarcastic woman” and me for being “an opinionated woman,” while suggesting that it was a good thing we had two sons instead of two daughters — “because four women in one household – hooo boy.”

It was oddly refreshing.

So, we buy the fridge. It’s going to be delivered the first week of September. And then I mention to Rowan later that evening that the current fridge will soon be gone, to be replaced by a new one.

And he loses it.

“I don’t want the fridge to go away,” he wails. “I don’t want a new fridge. I want this fridge. I love this fridge.” Tears, shuddering sobs, snot, the whole bit. I think he might have even hugged the old Viking. It took about 20 minutes to calm him down and distract him, with promises that the current fridge would still be there when he woke up in the morning, that everything would be okay.

So, what’s with the sudden passion for the fridge? I mean, of course, he loves to stand in front of the thing with the door open while I intone like a robot about wasting energy and all, but beyond that, I’ve never known him to profess any great love for the beast. My sense is that — of course — it’s about something else.

And that something else? Just a hunch, but this: Rob is leaving soon.

If you look closely, you can just make out the face of a man in two photographs tacked up to the side of the fridge. That’s Rob, with each of the boys as babies. Rob is our cherished friend, our sperm donor, a key part of the extended family, and Rowan and Isaac’s, well, their “Rob,” who currently lives and works in a different city but who has spent the past five weeks with us, playing Chase and Cat in the Hat and Princesses and Chutes & Ladders and Pokémon and computer games with the boys, holding slumber parties and sleepovers, babysitting and hanging out and cooking and talking and eating ice cream with us and generally being a mensch.

But, summer days are slipping away. Soon, August will give way to September and school and work commitments, and Rob will have to leave.

None of us — me, Rachel, Rob — can actually talk about the upcoming goodbye. The last time Rob left, I sat with two sobbing little boys on the front steps as the car pulled out of the driveway on its way to the airport, Rachel and Rob white-faced in the front seat. The plan had been for Rowan to accompany them to the airport, but he wouldn’t get in the car, as if that might somehow delay the inevitable. But the inevitable, it has a funny way of happening in the end.

So, it’s getting colder. The fall will come, and we’ll stick old pictures our sexy new fridge — which will, undoubtedly, chill the milk much more efficiently than its predecessor. And try not to pine too much for, uh oh, those summer nights.

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