The drive home from LA was nothing out of the ordinary. PCH was backed up at Santa Monica, through Malibu to Zuma before it finally began to lessen. A little south of the Sycamore Canyon Trailhead my car radio turned to static reminding me that I was past the halfway point. Only two more freeways and my son and I would be home.
I parked the car in the driveway thankful to be done with driving for the day. The front door to our house opened and our new mutt-puppy, Cash, raced out and made a beeline for my legs. He wrapped his doggie-arms around my knees and began humping rapidly. Doing my best to ignore him and greet my husband, I struggled to get from the driveway to the house while dragging a juvenile sex crazed canine behind me. His eyes were bulging out of his head, his doggie-tongue hung limply from the side of his mouth, and his body was heaving up and down like a honeymooner's bum. Luckily my husband was able to extricate the little darling away from me by distracting him with a toy.
With my delicate serotonin level hovering around the afternoon caffeine and chocolate happy hour, I headed directly for the espresso machine. On my way to the kitchen, I felt a break in the force - something was definitely off kilter. It was then that I heard those few words that can turn a marriage into chaos.
"Who took all of the stuff off the front of the refrigerator? Dad - was it you?"
I ran and stood next to my son, both of us staring in astonishment at the empty black canvas of the refrigerator door. My hands covered my mouth as I gasped. It was horrible.
My husband called out, "Yes, it was me. If you don't like it then all of that stuff is in a yellow envelope on the counter. Feel free to put it back on."
"Why did you do that, Dad?" My son asked.
"There were photos of pets that have been dead for years, I figured we needed a change."
I remained speechless and did something that I don't often do. I walked away. That refrigerator door had displayed what remained of our beloved dogs and cats from the past twenty-six years, and drawings done by kids that I cherish - stick figures with huge heads and bulbous eyes. Names and phone numbers of neighbors, pieces of paper yellowed with age and adorned with messages for family members. Doctor and dental reminders, unused prescriptions, directions to various places we've visited over the years, and printed flight itineraries from summers past. All archives of our family's day-to-day life were gone.
In an effort to feel like he'd done us a great favor, hubby pointed out that he'd left a few pieces of crap on the refrigerator for us.
"What, exactly?" I asked from across the living room.
"The metric conversion chart." He offered. I reminded him that the chart was his.
Later that day as I wandered into the kitchen I looked at the empty space. Next to hubby's stunning table of measurement were two items. The Freedom Grey2K USA Greyhound Rescue magnet that belongs to our youngest son, and the Oh crap, I forgot to go to college! piece of satirical memorabilia that belongs to moi. How kind.
The stuffed yellow envelope that holds sacred memories sits on the counter and there it will stay for weeks. I'm unable to touch it, not wanting to disturb cherished memories for fear that they will crumble to dust.
My mother's refrigerator, once adorned with notes for all of us, now proudly displays photos of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Magnets with clichéd lines such as, I didn't climb Ayers Rock (the name dates it a few years) hold up small snapshots of kids in sports uniforms and tap dancing costumes, toddlers with ponies, and teenage high school graduation photos. There are faces of people who I don't recognize at all - for all I know they may have come out of magazines. But it's my mum's fridge, a proud monument to her fading memories.
The kitchen memoir seems to be a tradition in my family as my sister's fridge is a mirror image of what mine used to look like. There's no organization, no artistic flair, but total chaos each time the fridge door is opened and closed. My niece and nephew's images blend into landscapes of South America, Europe, and Asia. It's how us Jackson mothers keep our kids close to us - in the kitchen, the epicenter of family discussions (arguments), heartaches, and love.
I'm pulled out of my Australian heritage by paws wrapped around my legs and the familiar rhythm of puppy humping. The ignoring thing is obviously not working. Little does this horny little pup know that in a few days he will be going in for the dreaded big snip. I push him off my leg and he dashes in another direction to find a toy.
Tomorrow I'll print up a photo of him, curled up on the sofa, asleep and innocent. Then it will appear in its rightful place on the blank canvas in the kitchen, held in place by the Greyhound Rescue magnet. Next month when my youngest son graduates high school, his photo gets priority, and in a year from now his older brother's UCLA graduation photo will takes its place held up by my favorite, Oh Crap I Forgot To Go To College, magnet. And life goes on...