Table for Four

...the refrigerator is a reminder that time marches on, life changes, and we can never predict the happy ending.

After the divorce, the “For Sale” sign in the yard necessitated a bare fridge for clean lines in the kitchen. With my heart stripped bare and half my furniture gone, a realtor’s advice transforming my family nest into a showplace, nothing was exempt from change.

The hand-painted pictures, magnets from family vacations, lists of couple friend phone numbers, and the photographs needed to go. Most items went into the junk drawer, a temporary pit stop close to the garbage… but I didn’t have the heart to toss away those memories just yet. My friends replaced the kid-art magnets and relationship pictures with pretty quotes about the power of women and of transformation. It was stylish. New. Simple. The house sold.

When I moved into a place of my own, I discovered that I actually liked the clean lines that uncovered my chaotic family fridge. The kid art still has a home, just not in the kitchen. The friend list – extremely revised -- is permanently stored in my cell phone and crisp new address book.

And the front of the refrigerator? Shopping list, school calendar, and pens keep us all organized. The butterfly, art, and girl-power magnets still keep me inspired and grounded.

The space is mostly mine – both my 11 and 14 year old are more concerned about the snacks inside that icy box – but even they have their elements on the front. There is a magnet of them when they were toddlers. There is a family photo of us on our vacation last summer. Regularly, the front will clutter with permission slips and reminders of events. Life with a middle and high schooler is rarely slow.

And life with a toddler makes it even faster. The bottom of the refrigerator is a reminder that time marches on, life changes, and we can never predict the happy ending. My happy ending involves three beautiful children and a single mom house.

Come in: get ready for a meal with us. My high school daughter is curled into the corner of the couch, just outside the kitchen door, finishing her homework. My middle school son is perched at the dining room table, working on his laptop. And the 18 month old – who loves to be on top of wherever I am – is sitting on the rug at the base of the refrigerator. Tinny music sounds squeak through the plastic speakers on her magnet toys. “A says aahhh. A says aahh… every letter makes a sound” mixes with the sizzle of sauté on the stovetop. “You made a match… look what you found” is punctuated by chopping noises as I prepare the salad. I step gingerly around the small pink angel on the floor, crack the refrigerator door open slightly, and grab the dressing from the side door. She looks up at me with bright blue eyes and neighs like the horse magnet on her toy. I smile and nicker back at her.

“It’s ready!” I call, and my oldest comes in, hugs my shoulders, and says “smells good” while she grabs plates out of the cabinet. My son hollers, “What are we having?” while he clears homework off the table and gets glasses from the shelves.

I scoop the baby from the floor, attach an “I’m the Little Sister” bib around her neck and give her a kiss on the head as I snap her into the high chair.

The refrigerator door opens and closes as kids choose drinks until finally everyone settles into their places at the table: Mom, sister, brother, babe.

Dinnertime.

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