I visit our refrigerator several hundred times a day. There are times when I walk away with a snack or the makings of a meal, but most of the time I leave empty handed. I sometimes wonder why opening the refrigerator door, if only for a quick peek inside, brings me so much comfort. Maybe I’m subconsciously driven to confirm that no one has walked off with our last drop of apple juice. If that makes me sound at all paranoid, please visit us sometime when I have to break the news to Elliott or Ian that the juice inventory has run dry and we no long have the only staple their diet has ever known. For your own protection, pack an unopened gallon of Mott’s.
I was in the middle of one of these trance-like refrigerator trips the other day when, upon my approach, I noticed for the first time the community of creatures and pictures and various other things that are living on our refrigerator door and the neighboring pantry. How long they had been living there? Please tell me they don’t drink apple juice.
Instead of diving into the refrigerator, I stayed outside, studying. I was suddenly on a trip to an art gallery rather than fishing for the snack that would kill off my last living new year’s resolution.
I decided to give the group individual attention. I started with this creature:
I looked at this guy – or girl – and smiled. I recalled Elliott bending over in the front yard a couple of weeks ago to pick up a lone piece of green yarn. When he looked at it and declared it was a piece of hair from his snowman, I didn’t pause for one single second to measure his words. Elliott, after all, has visited or lived on or owned exotic islands and planets and entire solar systems for years now; the fact that in the course of his travels he has befriended - or created - a snowman with green hair is hardly noteworthy.
Looking at the picture, I was curious if Elliott planned that this rather athletic winter wonder would be sprawled out like a gymnast in the upcoming Summer Olympics, in which case they had better have plenty of mops on hand, or could it be that once he created the head and body, his options were limited by the size of the paper to having a very flexible friend - or a midget. Either way, I’ll never look at Frosty the same again.
Now, this creation looked more like a real snowman – more frosty-like - to me. But do I detect his eyes drifting affectionately sideways toward the green haired girl doing the splits next door? Ian’s work, no doubt.
This creature validated that I do indeed attend the pantry in a trance. How was it that this was the first time I was asking myself, “what in the furthest stretch of my children’s imagination is this?” The complexity of the chaos made me believe that Elliott created it. I began to consider a conversation we had with one of Elliott’s teachers who we bumped into during a date night last weekend. She voiced a playful frustration that the school day is barely an hour old lately when Elliott has constructed a dozen paper airplanes and managed to stuff his backpack so full of them that little room remains to send home the more thoughtful and organized pieces the class creates. I wondered if this was one of those thoughtful pieces, or was it possibly one of the paper airplanes after spending a day hanging on a hook in an impregnated backpack.
This picture, unlike the previous one, required no thought. I recognized those little hands in an instant. I briefly wished I had spent more of my holidays admiring this Ian wreath. He’ll be four next Christmas. His hands will be so much bigger. So will the wreath. What if he’s too old to make a wreath next year? What if he’d rather make a paper airplane?
I found a manger scene on the refrigerator. It only had one Jesus. I found Ian’s name in the bottom left hand corner of the paper and wondered if he had learned the real Christmas story, the one about the birth of a single Savior, or did someone take the paper from him before he gently settled a second baby in Joseph’s open arms.
I ended my tour for the day with Rudolph. I hoped the crash wasn’t as violent as it looked– the one that rearranged Rudolph’s antlers until they resembled a game of pick up sticks. Before I turned away, I noticed the big 5 at the top of the picture. Elliott’s age. I know Elliott, and that was no accident.
As you can tell, it wasn’t your normal trip to the refrigerator, at least not mine. In fact, by the time I was done taking in the collection posted on the door, I never made it inside. It’s amazing to think back to the pre-Elliott and Ian refrigerator. One covered in coupons and bills. Those days are gone, and after my tour, I’m glad they are. Although some wild creations are now part of our kitchen décor, they bring something to the house, to life in general, that just can’t be found in a dollar-off coupon at the china buffet, or a reminder that I only have four days left to pay the electric bill.
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