Covering My Fridge with Travel Magnets Is Achingly Earnest, but I Don’t Care
Twenty stories of objects and areas in people’s homes that nourish their souls more than their social feeds. Read them all here throughout August.
During quarantine, my boyfriend and I realized our fairly-small one-bedroom apartment desperately needed decluttering. We cleared out bags of clothes and books to donate; finally hung up art we previously shoved towards the darkest corners under our couch; and painted a stack of wooden crates we found on a Park Slope stoop, turning them into a shelf for more storage. It was only natural that our decluttering efforts then turned to the biggest, most crowded spot in our home: Our fridge. Or, more specifically, the front of the refrigerator door.
As someone who’s been called “earnest” often enough for the word to be mildly triggering, our un-curated collection of travel magnets, group photos, postcards, wedding invites, Christmas cards, and other unrelated trinkets filled me with a soft shiver of shame whenever we had people over. It looks like we took every object you could theoretically stick on a fridge and did just that. That assumption would not be inaccurate. Whenever we’d travel, we’d bring back a magnet. If we took a photo (or got one taken) with an ever-trendy Instax camera, we’d pin it on.
Beyond that, the additions are more random. There are also: A few of my boyfriend’s favorite horror-themed postcards he got from one of his best friends; suuuuuper old photos of me with my friends that make me regret not taking more recent ones; wedding invites from weddings that already happened years ago; and a small assortment of museum ticket stubs. It’s a frantic gallery of where we’ve been and what we’ve done, so filled to the brim that I’ve, on many occasions, accidentally knocked down Paris and Chicago with a wave of my hand or slam of the fridge door.
Still, it’s been hard to dismantle. The act of getting back from a trip and adding another magnet, card, or photograph without a second thought was so refreshingly different from all the other ways we collected memories over the years. My Instagram feed, for instance, is the opposite of the fridge. I’d spend my vacations taking 167 pictures every single day before carefully choosing a few to post, pruning each one with filters and color level adjustments until it looked just right. I felt I always had to proudly display and temper my vacation excitement at the same time. I vividly remember sitting on a bus in Iceland trying to think of a clever-enough caption more than I do stepping off of it.
These days, I often zone out and stare at one of many points of interest on our eyesore of a fridge. I recollect the moments that didn’t make it to social media, the ones loosely tucked under the magnets. Walking 15 miles in a day in a pre-mask world, or hiding out shoulder-to-shoulder in a cramped cafe during a downpour without the awareness that, less than six months later, that same innocent act could fuel a pandemic. My mind isn’t desperate to remember destinations—it’s scrambling to recall the steps. A layer of rain water lining my socks. A friend toppling over a wine glass in a nice restaurant and laughing it off. An hour spent finding a gift shop in Colorado to bring my boyfriend back a magnet, the only souvenirs he ever asked for. It reminds me of why I’m sheltering in place, not to “go back to normal”, but to travel, see loved ones, and move through the world carrying what I know now.
I feel softer. My heart is extending, more curious. Every friend I see at a distance, long walk I take with my partner, six-feet-apart-picnic, defines my day instead of simply being another checkpoint. I already know the first outing I can take without covering my mouth or quickly rummaging for hand sanitizer will overwhelm me. I know that going to the first party where I can hug a dozen people and bounce around introducing myself to strangers will be a welcome overload. I will not have the impulse to tweak, alter, reduce, wish for more, wish for better. I will hold on to everything I have.