Chilling Effect

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‘The Icebox Cometh. The Refrigerator Taketh.’

Harrison Ford is 80.

Yes, that Heartthrob of the Seventies, he of Han Solo and Indiana Jones fame, is old. Older than me, even.

“Ain’t he neat?” Harrison when he was not old. In my favorite role — that uncredited drag-racing devil in American Graffiti

Even if they hadn’t given his age in this interview I read in the NY Times, he would have given the game away, age-wise, by referring to a certain kitchen appliance as an “icebox.”

Incidentally, Harrison gave the interview to promote a new role of his — playing somebody’s great-great-great uncle — which is also a rather elderly thing to do. But, hey. More power to you, former carpenter-who-made-it-big!

I’m just glad you’re older than me, Harrison. So few people are these days. Well, my mother is, but I get mistaken for her sister. A lot.

“My sister” “My daughter” “My sister” “My daughter” (movie reference!)

But back to “iceboxes.”

Chances are, O Reader, you are too young to remember when these contraptions were called “iceboxes,” much less why. (It had something to do with cooling with actual ice, which came in blocks, delivered by an iceman. Hence The Iceman Cometh.“)

I too am too young to remember iceboxes, thank god. (It’s nice to be too young for something.) Oddly enough, The Dude’s family didn’t have an icebox either, but he calls our SubZero “the icebox” all the time. And he — you guessed it — is younger than me.

Youthful Dude when he was genuinely youthful, yet still younger than me

I do remember that our refrigerator had a very important ancillary function in my childhood household. It was used as sort of a chilling area. No, mom wouldn’t stick a kid in there. But if, say, we’d fight over a toy, that toy would get put “on top of the refrigerator.”

As in, “If you two don’t stop, that cap gun” — yes we owned toy weapons — “is going on top of the refrigerator!” See, the top of the refrigerator was too high for a child to reach, so it was the perfect repository for Things That Were Taken Away From Kids.

Cap guns got put up there. Yo-yos. Sets of jacks, decks of cards. Chocolate Easter Bunnies. Pretty much anything we’d grapple over. Messy or annoying toys went up there too. (Play-Doh and harmonica, I’m talking about you.)

Thank your lucky stars, O Child. If you’d had siblings, that tiara would have ended up on top of the refrigerator for sure

You might be asking, why not just stick these things in a closet or drawer? Well, for one thing, we kids were pretty good at finding even the most well-hidden treasures. (Birthday and Christmas presents were famously “hidden” under the parental bed.) But the most important reason was the inherent reprimand of having something you dearly wanted put in an inaccessible place where you could see it and thus be constantly reminded that you were naughty enough to have had it taken away.

Pretty perfect parenting trick, that. I’d recommend it, but these days refrigerators tend to be built in to a bank of cabinets. So there’s no way to stick something up there in a tauntingly reprimandish way. Oh sure, you could stash that slingshot in the fridge-top cabinet, but if your kid can’t see it and whine to get it back what’s the fun in that?

I’ll end here with a shot of two kids who look like they did get stuck inside the refrigerator — or maybe even an icebox:

Amagansett, New York. December 2022