Fridge Friends

I like the idea of being adopted into another family’s fridge Bill of Rights, of being accepted on this most basic level. It says, “What’s mine is yours” and “I trust you not to judge me.”

June 19, 2012 | | Back Issues | Community | Departments | Headwaters Nest | In Every Issue | Summer 2012

The dog days of summer are almost here. Families are heading to friends’ houses for afternoon ball games, fence-building work parties, a jump in the pool, and barbecue get-togethers that stretch way past any appropriate bedtime. The heat shimmers off the deck, the pavement, the pool, and you wipe the sweat from your brow. Inside, the fan moves slowly side to side.

A tall glass of lemonade from the fridge would be perfect right now. Or maybe an iced tea…

But you hesitate. Opening your friend’s fridge to grab a glass of lemonade? Just like that? 
Impossible! That would be crossing the line. Breaking an unwritten rule.

Why is going into each other’s fridges so verboten? Would you be shocked if a friend or family member were over, and during the course of a conversation took a glass from the cupboard, opened your fridge uninvited, and filled it up with a beverage of their choice?

A few years ago, I heard about the “Fridge Friends” concept. A Fridge Friend is someone who would feel comfortable doing just that. Going into your kitchen, opening up that big door, and – gasp! – helping themselves. All on their own. Without asking. In turn, you would feel comfortable doing the same at their house.

Fridge Friends

A Fridge Friend is someone who would feel comfortable going into your kitchen, opening up that big door, and – gasp! – helping themselves. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

At the time, I realized I had only one Fridge Friend, or, to be more specific, a Fridge Friend Family. My son and one of their daughters were born just five days apart, and we were direct neighbours. The first winter with these little ones was long, and my friend Suzanne and I spent quite a bit of time together looking at the new babies, and walking them in their strollers when the weather permitted. Suzanne was an experienced mom, so I had lots of questions for her. We cleaned their tiny bums side by side, nursed them, and tended to the visible and invisible wounds of birth.

By the time summer came, the babies were sitting up on blankets in the dappled sunlight, tipping over when startled or grasping for something just out of reach. I moved houses, and Suzanne and her family helped pack and unpack (including the fridge). We enjoyed our summer of parenting, and many times the barbecue would be fired up and the wider family would join in.

With baby bottles and baby food concoctions being prepped during our visits, Suzanne finally said, “Just go in the fridge. Take what you need. You don’t need to ask.” And that was that. I was so glad, and still am. It was so much easier just to grab the juice or milk, or put on the kettle without interrupting the chit-chat and childminding.

I know the value here goes beyond just practicality and convenience. Being comfortable in other people’s homes is not as common as it once was. Do you like the drop-in? Or do you dread it? Are you anxious if your house is not photo-shoot ready? I can be, for sure. Letting it be known you are not perfect can be hard, especially these days when there are so many media goddesses dedicated 24/7 to teaching you the Art of Homemaking.

In their book Refrigerator Rights: Creating Connections and Restoring Relationships (Perigee Trade, 2002), authors Will Miller and Glenn Sparks say much discontent and anxiety stem from a lack of Fridge Friends and Refrigerator Rights. We are isolated from our neighbours, distracted by media and consumed by our careers. Miller has noted most Americans could probably describe sitcom characters’ kitchens more accurately than their neighbours’ – and I believe he’s right. He says a level of comfort and security comes from having close, open relationships, and we should nurture them and invite people into all aspects of our lives.

I like the idea of being adopted into another family’s fridge Bill of Rights, of being accepted on this most basic level. It says, “What’s mine is yours” and “I trust you not to judge me.” I like the idea of extending my family, because it is very small and it can be quiet around here sometimes. Indeed, families are now smaller than ever and more geographically spread out. According to Statistics Canada, the average number of people in a family dropped by almost one person between 1971 and 2006, and the number of single-parent families in Canada almost tripled.

Perhaps by reconnecting with friends and family on this simple level, we can build the necessary social bonds so important to healthy family life. Let your leftovers hang out! Let the milk dribbles be noticed! Ignore the mouldy jam! (Okay, maybe throw that out before company comes…)

Is it possible to nurture the relationships we have, and build new ones just by inviting people into our fridge? I think so. If you come over to my house this summer, my fridge door is open.

A berry good way to start summer

The plump and, we think, quite adorable strawberry is grown and celebrated in most parts of these hills. Children just love to munch on these lovely juicy treats. Here is a rundown of the delicious events coming our way.

  • June 23: Hockley Strawberry Festival Starting at 8am, this traditional event includes a bicycle parade at 10am, live music, games, food, local artisans and vendors. Fun for the whole family!
  • July 1: Caledon’s 24th Annual Strawberry Festival Imagine feather-light pancakes ladled with field-fresh strawberries and cream, live music, vintage cars and a “shop till you drop Christmas in July” artisan trade fair – all during Canada’s 145th birthday. The event starts at 10am and all proceeds go to Caledon Agricultural Society.
  • July 1: Canada Day Strawberry Festival at Downey’s Farm Market Visit this family-friendly farm on Heart Lake Road in Caledon for live entertainment, antique cars/tractors, animals, u-pick and ready-picked strawberries. Opening ceremonies at 10:30am.

Local churches are also celebrating the spring berry harvest. On June 23, starting at 8am, Hockley United Church hosts its annual Strawberry Pancake Breakfast. The festivities include a silent auction. Then on June 27, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Hillsburgh puts on a Strawberry Supper that includes a chicken barbecue dinner. Eat in at 5, 6 or 7:15pm, or take out. Purchase tickets at What’s Cookin’ in Erin.

Young Hound by Marc Lavoie, early to mid-20th century, painted wood, 24" high. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Loving your pets

Memories of childhood often include poignant recollections of favourite pets. If an animal is in your child’s future, Love Your Pet Day is for you. A celebration of pets is planned July 7, from 10am to 4pm, at the Dufferin County Museum & Archives. Regular admission applies or donate canned or bagged pet food instead. DCMA has invited the Orangeville SPCA, Shelburne/Orangeville Paws & Claws, Alliston Humane Society, Procyon Wildlife, and Painted Rock Animal Farm Sanctuary to come and bring awareness to their work and services.

Later in the summer, the museum presents a Dog Day Afternoon Fashion Show for Children and Their Pets. Children are invited to bring their pets on August 22 from 1 to 3pm, and the museum will provide the accessories for both child and pet. Should be a fashion show like no other!

Finally, a unique church service will be held in the museum’s historic Corbetton Church on September 16. All pets are invited to come and hear hymns and scriptures about animals, and then be blessed. Pets are encouraged to bring their owners, who need to understand the importance of animals not only to Christians, but to other world religions as well. A collection will be taken. Animal Blessings – Animals in the Bible takes place between 2 and 3pm.

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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