Spring came late and so, appropriately, did the annual deep cleaning of the refrigerator.
A lot of stuff gets tucked into the refrigerator over the course of the winter. Obsolete condiments band together and take refuge deep in the corners. A thuggish-looking jar of jam wearing a cap of mold sidles up to an empty bottle of horseradish sauce and they both evade detection by skulking behind an oversized bag of sun-dried tomatoes. A stray stalk of celery becomes separated from the pack and is left alone to mummify. Unnoticed spills of unidentified liquids petrify into sticky footprints.
The whole refrigerator had begun to resemble some archaeological site with mysterious remnants of a past life that we could now only guess at.
In our house this is a double challenge because my husband, Peter, removed the dishwasher from our small kitchen and replaced it with a second, smaller refrigerator. The little refrigerator is a lifesaver but it is not self-defrosting — something we have come to take for granted. Over the winter, the mini freezer of the auxiliary fridge had almost entirely filled with ice and we discovered it just before it triggered the next ice age.
So, on a sunny day, Peter and I tackled our respective duties. He was responsible for removing the glacier in the tiny fridge while I worked to identify the historical artifacts in the freezer of the main fridge.
I know I need a better system. Finding a frosted-up package labeled: “Mostly Grated Cheese,” is not reassuring. Similarly, “Not Refried Beans,” proves most unhelpful a few months down the line.
Then there was the last of the summer fruit to deal with. The pile of frozen peaches, while diminished, was still substantial. I kept finding rhubarb, hidden away in corners. It was furry with frost and did not look good. New rhubarb is coming up in the garden and there I was, dealing with last year’s rhubarb. I found pickles leftover from old picnics and cheese from parties long past.
“Are we going to eat this?” I asked Peter repeatedly. He is usually a pretty good judge.
Meanwhile, Peter had a fan trained on the glacier until it melted enough to be removed. “We probably shouldn’t wait so long next time,” Peter observed. As the glacier receded, he made discoveries. “More butter,” he announced.
Finally, the refrigerator was clean: the less vexing mysteries had been solved, the unknowable mysteries thrown away, and there was room for new things in a new season.
I feel a bit like my fridge this time of year.
I had this idea that my life was full. But when I really looked at what was taking up space, I found a bunch of frost-covered habits: social media sites, magazine subscriptions, and other timewasters that hadn’t provided anything beneficial in a very long time. Like that frozen rhubarb, they were taking up space—space that could be used for something fresh and a whole lot tastier.
It turns out I have more time than I thought.
And so, with some of that time I freed up, I took my first singing lesson — something I’d wanted to do for years. At first, I was nervous. Singing by myself seemed… well, a little crazy. But I loved it. My voice teacher recorded the piano accompaniment and I sang my heart out.
It’s a myth, I realized, that I don’t have enough time. And—as nice as it might have been at the time—I don’t want to be hanging onto last year’s rhubarb. I’m ready for new rhubarb.