“Oh honey, it’s perfect! So shiny! I just love it.”
I grinned at my husband as I slid into the passenger seat of the car to a chorus of “When can we go? Why are we just sitting here? Why were you in the store for so loooong?” from the back seat.
“Yeah?” he said, ignoring the children. “I think so too. And it’s an amazing deal. Let’s get it!”
“This is so exciting!” I called after him as he headed back into the store to make it official.
We were getting a new refrigerator for Christmas.
What, were you thinking diamonds? A new car? Something with features a little more titillating than metal cooling rods and ice and water in the door? Not this year. This year, instead of buying each other gifts, my husband and I decided to buy a new fridge.
I know, I know. It’s lame. I sound like an awful cliche of a married, middle-aged mom who loses her mind over a BRAND NEW! ULTRA-MODERN! FULLY AUTOMATIC! appliance like a dopey 50’s housewife in an advertisement.
But here’s the thing. My husband was just as excited, maybe even more excited than I was about getting a new fridge. With four-year-old twins and a three-year-old, we don’t have much extra money. To be honest, I’m not even sure what “extra money” means. Our house is a hundred years old, and the kitchen still has the same small, college-rental-looking refrigerator that was here when we moved in. Anyone with three kids knows how important the refrigerator is to the household. Ours is always overflowing, and the outdated design is inconvenient and dreary-looking. I swear at it daily.
Just to be clear, I do appreciate how fortunate we are to have a warm home and enough food to fill a refrigerator this winter. I know what it is to worry about how you’re going to pay the bills, and I know how many families face real, daily struggles. I do not take my family’s current state of good fortune for granted.
But I’m still damn excited about my new fridge.
When we were first married, exchanging Christmas gifts with my husband was full of fun and romance. It was a challenge to surprise each other, and we had the luxury of taking the time to choose the perfect present. Then we would sit in the soft glow of candlelight, slightly drunk on champagne, and open our gifts. It’s kind of hard to remember now, but I’m sure all of the candlelight and champagne led to some ultra-romantic Christmas Eve action between the sheets.
Christmas Eve is almost nothing like that now.
It’s busy and bright. It’s full of wrapping and cleaning and chasing a toddler with a sugar-high back into her bed. We stay up really late and get up really early the next day. There’s no talk of surprising each other or exclaiming over a perfectly-chosen gift, because we both know what was in all of those Amazon Prime packages, and it’s getting wrapped up for the kids. But there’s still champagne and maybe even a Christmas Eve quickie.
And the truth is that I like it better.
I like that we can both get excited about a new fridge. It means that while we may be down in the parenting trenches, we’re in them together. We’re surviving, taking care of our family, and spending a hell of a lot of time in the kitchen to do it. The new fridge will bring a little bit of pizzazz to the work of our daily lives.
One day, when the children are all grown up, I’m sure we’ll get back to choosing individual gifts for each other. At that point they may be things like large-print books and orthopedic slippers, but you know what? I bet we’ll still drink champagne, and I certainly hope that we’ll still get up to some Christmas Eve romance. And I think we’ll look back (through inevitably rose-colored glasses) at this time now, this time of tight budgets and loud children and appliances for Christmas, as one of the best (albeit not the easiest) times of our life.
For now, I have to go open up the fridge and figure out, for what feels like the hundredth time today, what to feed the children. But at least I’ll be doing it by the frosty glow of bright new lights and shiny stainless steel.