The passion of fridges

When I was very small, we had a small refrigerator, and my mother often perched me on top so I’d be out from underfoot while she made dinner. It was high enough to give a good view and keep me from wiggling, but not so high that a fall would cause much damage.

It was from up there one evening that I saw my father come home. He was sad and holding a package of brownies I’d wanted for myself but had been made for my grandfather in the hospital.

“He thanks you,” my father told my mother, “but he can’t eat them.”

She put down her spoon and went to hold him. From my perch I realized with a cold start that a person could be too sick for brownies.

My grandfather died, and we got a slightly larger refrigerator, a Westinghouse. As the squiggly lines on the door evolved into letters I could read, it offered a new diversion. A picky eater, I couldn’t stay focused on spam, bratwurst, stew, kidney beans or canned spinach.  But “Westinghouse” picked out in metal letters on the door endlessly held my interest. Moving letters around, I made more words: west, thing, sit, sting, guest, those.And so on.

A little later, when I was maybe eight, nightmares revealed the dark side of refrigerators. Over and over, I’m standing in our yard on Dorian Road. Coming at me is a battalion of giant, metal-faced refrigerators. They have no wheels but grind slowly, implacably over the asphalt, coming at me like the Israelite  woman in the Ten Commandments who’s crushed between pyramid stones. Even now, I hear the grinding, muffled shriek on asphalt. I’m frozen in dream. The refrigerators pass Carol’s house, then two more houses, then the edge of Linda’s yard next to ours. They’ll come up on the grass and get me. Except they never did. Always in dreams, they stop at Linda’s house.

Odd how the mind is. However many times I had the dream and woke up terrified, it was the implacable menace, not the miraculous salvation that held me. Am I the only one?




Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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One comment on “The passion of fridges
  1. Iosifina says:

    Did you tell Linda what waited for her near her yard? Maybe she scared them all back!


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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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