The Ice Box

It was a desultory Sunday afternoon conversation. Mr. and Mrs. Stepford were sipping tea and Mrs. was rapturing over a piece of lemon flavoured pound cake.

Mr. was leafing through a box of old newspapers and magazines that had been brought from Mother’s house as I was clearing it out. I hadn’t time to sort it out at all, so the boxes and piles of stuff from her house were now encumbering my living room, my dining room, my studio, my office, my basement, the outdoor tool shed. Boxes, boxes everywhere, and not a drop to drink, I thought, remembering Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner and massacring the lines of the poem to suit my purposes. I could have done with a short sharp nip of something. I was getting worn down by the aesthetic depression I was getting into, looking at all the boxes.

“These are all about the Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge,” said Mister Stepford. “Nineteen Forty-two” he muttered, as an afterthought.

He carefully handled each newspaper and magazine that he brought out, laying them upside down in the box top so that he could easily put them back in order when he had looked at them all. He was searching for my father’s name amongst the myriad credits that were cited in reference to the bridge.

“He was just starting as a Civil Engineer. I’m sure he must have worked on it. But they woudn’t have credited a rooky Engineer. It was the middle of the war. I remember Mom telling me that all the women were encouraged, that is, coerced, into assisting with the apple and peach harvests because all the men were off to war or doing something essential at “home”. She went picking, she told me, but she hated it.”

Mr. Stepford fell silent as he turned the pages, careful not to tear the fragile paper, careful to keep the folds that were already there aligned so that no damage would occur from his handling them.

Then he found a 1941 calendar. “Whose year of birth was this one?” he asked.

“Heather’s”

Next he found the May 1945 NATIONAL home monthly.

“Look!” he remarked,” There are several companies that are still going strong today. “Cow Brand baking soda; Old Dutch Cleanser; Kotex; Arrid deoderant; Swift’s Premium Bacon;Jello; Gold Seal Salmon; Yardley’s soaps; Coca Cola; Magic Baking Powder!”

“Ice boxes!” he exclaimed, as he read on. “The new Ice refrigerators are here!” he quoted.

“I remember the day they brought a refrigerator into our house on Thirty-sixth Street.” said I. “We had an ice box before that. It was before we moved to Burnaby, so that must have been about 1950. I was little, but I remember. No more messy blocks of ice; No more emptying out the drip pan in the bottom. Times sure have changed.”

“Mother had the first refrigerator on the block. And the first dishwasher, too. We called it James, like it was a servant, but that was it’s brand name as well. Someone else had the first television. That was 1953 because we kids all went down to the Hillman’s house on the next block to watch Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation. That was really something!”

“And do you remember the horse and cart that delivered Dairyland’s milk from door to door? There was so little gas available and at such a price, that the retailers went back to delivery by horse rather than by automobile.”

The memories come in bits and pieces. A comment made, an object to touch – they all have ghosts behind them. Ghosts of the living – that person I used to be whether small, at five or tall when I was eleven, or twenty – still stirring, remembering threads and patches in the fabric of my life and bringing them forward.

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