In Praise of the Refrigerator Magnet (or What makes a home?)

When my eldest child went off to college, I started sending her refrigerator magnets.   Any museum or gallery, or park visitor’s center gift shop I happened to visit, I shopped for new magnets.  A kokopelli, (my daughter has a kokopelli tattoo- gotten that freshman year- which I don’t approve of but it’s done now), a smiling blond lady sitting at a typewriter saying “It’s OK, I wasn’t using my civil rights anyway!”, a line-drawn image from a Picasso of a woman reclining.

And others.  Each one a little bit of cleverness or sentiment, small enough to tuck in with a card or letter.  After all, having a refrigerator is a mark of having your own place, even if it’s just a tiny cubic dorm version.

So then came Hurricane Katrina.  My daughter packed her hairbrush, jewelry, old letters, pink-turned-gray teddy bear and the Raggedy Anne doll her Grandma Cat sewed her.  But not even her favorite jeans, and not much else.  It all went into a gym duffle.  She lived in a hotel in Baton Rouge, then home with us.  When she could reenter New Orleans the house had been gutted, the landlady eager to get rid of moldy wallboard and move on.  Refrigerator magnets were the smallest of huge losses in that sad time.

My daughter made new homes and I sent her new magnets.  She shared a tiny apartment with a friend, moved, moved again, married a New Orleanian boy, lived in a shotgun house, moved again to the Big Apple.  Their next stop, as a family of three now, will be Bankok Thailand.  I am visiting their tiny Manhattan apartment to help them pack for an interim move to Queens.  They know they won’t be there long, don’t have much space, and will be going to Thailand with only a few boxes.  So… another culling.  After many.  Remember, it was not so long ago that they got married and received artwork, handmade pottery, china and glassware to serve eight.  Now it’s another round of clothes to relatives and Goodwill.  Furniture to Craig’s list, freecycle, and putting it out for trash knowing the building maintenance guys will find a use for it or sell it.   Now the culling is with a sharper knife yet – a favorite platter that is just too large, the covered cake dish, a rolling cooler used too infrequently, baby clothes from the first year.

What makes a home?  For my grandbaby, Jonah, it isn’t the china or wall art.  It’s if mommy and daddy and the two kitties Frida and Otto are there.  And maybe  a teddy bear.  And – just maybe- a few refrigerator magnets that were small enough to move, that look familiar and are fun to pull down.


3 thoughts on “In Praise of the Refrigerator Magnet (or What makes a home?)

  1. There is so much feeling beyond the words. Thank you for sharing such a poignant time in life. I’m sure it will be hard to have them so far away, but maybe that means a fun trip for you!


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