Love is as close as the refrigerator door

When I was a girl, our refrigerator was stocked. Not just with food, but with memories.

My mother liked to collect magnets from places she had visited — and while it’s difficult to remember exactly from where and from when, I do distinctly recall a trail of experiences splattered like paint across the front of a series of refrigerator doors of my childhood.

It’s a tradition I’ve, without much serious intention, carried forward. It started when I moved in with my now-husband. He already had a few refrigerator magnets that predated me, but we began building a refrigerator of love of our own. The first addition was a magnet we found at a gift shop in Hoboken where we lived at the time.

We loved the quote so much we incorporated it into our wedding invitation.

Marcel Proust let us be grateful

A few weeks ago, after a bunch of dreams of messy houses, I realized my home was in need of attention. In the middle of mopping up the kitchen floor, I noticed how dirty, disorganized and jumbled our refrigerator had become. We had been mindlessly putting up A+ exams, beautiful art class drawings, and promotional magnets from every local business, from the hairdresser to Pinchi the clown, birthday party extraordinaire I don’t ever remember being entertained by.  I don’t have “before pictures,” but imagine a Leap Frog alphabet game scattered in more than 26 places; a Made in China set of Hebrew letters ready to be choked on by a visiting baby; and hidden beneath five field trip permission forms was the Marcel Proust quote.

I held it in my hands — saw how smudged and worn it had become in 13 years — but smiled knowing it remained. Intact, across continents and seas; still stuck to my refrigerator door.

I spent some time then sorting, throwing away, and putting the dusty alphabet letters in a bag to give to a friend whose children would use them — mine had grown too old for them while I wasn’t paying attention.

I filed away some papers, recycled others. I organized the promotional magnets in a big square on the hidden side of the fridge.

Afterwards, I pulled out the Marcel Proust quote — made it a centerpiece holding up a series of photographs that represented experiences we treasure, times and places … faces almost forgotten in the everyday rush of life.

I made love, once again, the focus of the refrigerator door. And said a quiet prayer that Proust’s words would continue to carry this family forward in 2014.

“Let us be grateful for people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Yes, our days, if only we are lucky, will still be filled with exams to study for, dentist appointments to run to, and permission slips to sign, but somehow, in spite of it and in light of it, let us be grateful for the people who make us happy.