It wasn’t brown from the manufacturer, no; it was hand painted a rich earth, dark brown. You could even see the brush strokes if you looked at it in the right light. Just for fun, there were various sizes of flower power stickers affixed to its door. For the pièce de résistance, they painted the handle a bright orange.
As a pre-teen, it mortified me. My friends had normal, modern, full sized refrigerators, stocked with food. They had real kitchens. Ours was in a narrow room that was more of an afterthought on the back of the house, with a floor that slanted just enough to notice.
It was a cottage Mom had rented, all white, a blank canvas, a fresh start. We were going to live together for the first time in years. She even let me pick purple for my bedroom paint color.
And for the first time since 1974, the memory of that eyesore floated to consciousness this morning, and I had to attempt putting the image on paper.
What I couldn’t capture though were all the times I stood with the door open, bathed in the cold air in a house with no air conditioner, and long for Grandmother’s full fridge, even if half its contents were past their expiration.
Or all the times I hid wedged in the small space between refrigerator and wall during the storms, both outside and the ones that swirled within the walls of our home.
I don’t know whose idea it was to hand decorate a major appliance, or who executed the plan. I don’t remember and there is no one from that era I can ask.
What I didn’t know then, but know now, is that refrigerator was evidence of my single mother doing the best she could to make our lives a bit brighter, a little prettier.