A slice of the door of Andrea Chapman’s family’s fridge. Photograph: Andrea Chapman
If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the fridge is the heart of our family, its raggedy jigsaw of photos and notes telling the story of our lives. There’s the card in the top left corner that proclaims, “Good friends are like stars, you don’t always see them but you know they’re always there”, sent by my best friend when her cancer kept us apart, put there before her death and a steadfast presence in the seven years since. There’s my sister and her partner on their wedding day in Brighton, joyfully celebrating 20 years together. My railway enthusiast father-in-law driving a train on his 80th birthday. My own father on his 80th, cornet to lips, proving there’s brass in the old blood yet. My mum laughing at a sign congratulating her on climbing a flight of stairs – and the postcard she’s told me she can’t understand, of a nuclear family sitting down to Sunday roast, the mother saying, “Isn’t this nice!”, the caption above stating “Practice for hell”.
There, too, is my partner on his 50th, preparing to tackle the biggest birthday cake any of us had ever seen; our Battersea cat, unpredictable but adored; my nephew on a windswept Scottish beach; my art-student niece, below the Picasso magnet she bought us when she went to Madrid to see Guernica.
Magnets can be found all over: a northern lights one my son brought back from a school journey to Iceland; a few funny cows from packs of butter in France; some New Yorker ones my mum gave me after a great family trip there. They all bring back memories and make me smile. Everything on the fridge does, from the faded photo of the penguin pool at London zoo (way back when it still had occupants and I was still young) to the picture of my daughter and sister and me with Eric Morecambe on the seafront in his home town, on a freezing New Year’s Day when we’d gone in search of Antony Gormley’s statues and had somehow wound up beside his instead.
That photo hasn’t moved for quite some time. Other fridge dwellers’ positions are less fixed. October Dawn, one of the Ted Hughes poems I studied at A-level, used to live low down for 11 months of the year, being elevated to eye level only on 1 October … until I decided I like it too much to care and let it stay there, a permanent reminder of my favourite subject and favourite teacher.
… And the fridge in all its magnetic glory Photograph: Andrea Chapman
You can’t see the sides of the fridge in the picture, but they are full, too, with silly cards and magnets (“Other people ruin everything”; “I childproofed my house but they still get in”); a name badge with my old school photo on it, souvenir of a recent reunion; a postcard my sister sent me of Blade Runner, a film we both love, but which my nephew has sagely advised me not to praise as highly to my kids as my sister did to hers, if I want to avoid disappointment when they’re old enough to watch it.
My son is there with his football team – gleeful at going up a league at the end of his ninth season with them – and my daughter with her friends, all rubbing shoulders with scraps of paper about parents’ evenings, Scout camps and swimming pool opening times, money-off vouchers and party invitations. And, out of sight here but never out of mind, the family calendar (woe betide anyone who forgets to check it when arranging to have friends over, go the cinema, get a haircut, breathe).
Today’s minimalist kitchens, with everything built in and hidden away? Not for us, thanks. This old fridge is part of the family.