What lives in untouched corners of the home
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Two years ago I wrote about the drama of basements. This week I’ve been thinking about an appliance that is basement-adjacent. It’s an item I hadn’t considered — I mean really considered — in a long time. Possibly ever.
The item? A chest freezer. It comes to most of us passively, appearing as something left behind, existing with no apparent beginning. It’s just a given — like a doorbell, or a light switch.
The chest freezer is assigned to the untouched corners of the home. A basement nook. A dusty wall in a garage. You, too, are likely to be assigned to these corners if you complain that there is nothing to eat in between meals. Mothers know that this is never true, because the deep freezer isn’t wasting all that electricity for nothing.
“Check the freezer downstairs,” she’ll say.
And with dread, you descend past the familiar utilities, like washer and dryer, and go further in to the bowels of the home’s foundation, to the cold container wrapped in hard plastic casing. The sealed lid opens with a soft smack, then a sigh, a wide mouth opening after holding its breath. An icy smoke lifts from the ancient ice crystals that line the walls.
Inside are stacks and stacks of T.V. dinners — Lean Cuisine, Hungry-Man, the ones in turquoise cases with the penguin mascot and the brownie for desert. (Editors note: Kid Cuisine.)
You must flip through the cardboard containers like a Rolodex until you find something that speaks to you. In my case, the winners involved cheese. Chicken Alfredo, macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes. The creamier the dinner, the better it came out.
In another story, the protagonist ventures out to the garage, past the recycling, past the rickety shelf of lawn care items. There beside the lawn mower is the chest freezer. This one holds a remarkable quantity of frozen meat and pre-made lasagnas in shiny foil trays, none of which can be consumed as a quick snack.
No matter the contents, they always seem a bit off, simply because of their home. Because of the way they’ve been cohabitating together for weeks, months, maybe years, in one frosty, forgotten treasure trove.
Collectively, the chest freezer has been through some trauma. They seem to find their way into a lot of true crime stories, and that gives their image a scary undertone.
But if the chest freezer was a character in The Brave Little Toaster, it wouldn’t be scary like the air conditioner, or mean like the vacuum cleaner. It would be… tired. And lonely, because it works nonstop — I kid you not, nonstop — keeping forgotten things cold for families that take them for granted. It seems like there could be a Norman Rockwell painting of a defrosted, dysfunctional chest freezer sitting by someone’s back door.
One thing is certain: the chest freezer isn’t really a given. Somebody is filling these chests with love. Moms and dads, no doubt. And you know very well that when they select their options from a variety of frozen dinners, they choose each one with someone specific in mind. “So and so doesn’t like mushrooms,” they say, skipping over a stew, or, “So and so does enjoy their stroganoff,” as they drop two into the cart. They curate their emergency backup meals with thoughtful care, just in case their family gets hungry when they’re not there.
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