Frozen in Time

There’s a lot of life in that old freezer.

It’s a chest freezer actually, from the 1960s I think. Dirty white with spots of ancient rust and it makes a horrifying screech when the lid is opened. For decades it sat on the huge back porch of Nannie’s farmhouse, ran perfectly, and never skipped a beat.

When Nannie died, Daddy debated what to do with that old freezer. He feared moving it would cause it to stop running but he hauled it across the field to his own screened porch where it still runs perfectly and never skips a beat. Daddy is gone now too, but the freezer runs on.

That freezer has a lot of life in it, in more ways than one.

Every summer Nannie filled its frosty racks with butter beans and other garden goodies. I’d take the path to her house and hear the familiar screech of the lid as I got to the porch. Nannie would be comically bent over head first in the freezer, digging through frozen packages, surrounded by the cloud of cold “smoke” that puffed out as she stirred the air inside.

Over decades the freezer took on a life of its own and became more than a useful place to store food. It became the focal point of Nannie’s porch with its broad surface that made a handy place to leave things, do things, and grow things.

It was a fine spot for African violets and a Christmas cactus. In early spring Nannie started vegetable seeds in trays and lined them up along the top of the freezer. She’d laugh for causing herself extra work when she had to move them all just to get a package of frozen corn for supper.

A lot of life went on around that freezer.

Nannie kept small weigh scales on the freezer in case someone from church came by to get a pound of snaps. Quart baskets of blackberries we all picked sat on the freezer until someone came to buy them. A random green apple, a forgotten eggplant, or a pie Nannie made and meant to give to a friend might all be on the freezer.

If one aunt had coupons for another aunt, they were left on the freezer. If a visiting friend found a cousin’s toy army man under the swing, it was left on the freezer. If an uncle returned a borrowed tool, it was left on the freezer. If you carried something when you stopped by to see Nannie you could leave it on the freezer. On the way out you just picked it up from the freezer.

I stood at the freezer with my aunt Noody on several Thanksgivings as she cut up the turkey before families arrived. She’d spread the giant bird out on the freezer, plates to the left for light meat, plates to the right for dark. The broad surface made a perfect work area.

Nannie left bags of homemade rolls on the freezer for me to deliver to aunts across the field. On countless summer evenings the freezer held glasses of iced tea, ash trays, and random conversation pieces brought over for a night of family stories on the porch. Sometimes the top of the freezer was cleared, newspaper spread, and a watermelon cut up for whoever happened to be visiting.

A lot of life revolved around that freezer.

Today the old freezer still runs on Daddy’s screened porch. I looked at it a few weeks ago. Nothing sits on top anymore, nothing being done there, nothing growing there as in the old days. I lifted the lid and the familiar screech was as strong as ever, the icy “smoke” still swirled, but the frosty racks were mostly empty.

Mama’s health issues have prevented her from gardening and freezing the summer’s goodies. I saw a few iced over packages labeled in her handwriting, “Corn 2012”, but they’re old and should be thrown away.

For decades that freezer was the accidental center of a lot of what Nannie and her huge extended family did. The conversations it heard, the family meals it held, the cousins, babies, and babies of cousins who wanted a turn sitting on its broad top are too numerous to ponder.

It’s still running, but just like the last few freezer burned packages of corn inside maybe the old chest freezer itself should finally be thrown away. But who could do that? Not me.

There’s a lot of life in that old freezer.

Stuart M. Perkins

132 Comments

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132 responses to “Frozen in Time

  1. agwink1942

    Stuart, as long as the corn has been kept frozen it is still edible. The taste may be a bit off, but put it in a pot of soup and enjoy it. And keep that freezer for as long as it runs. I still have my old chest freezer, and keep it filled for winter. I’m from a farm family also, and a very large one at that. We all know how to can, freeze, preserve, grow, and harvest, so keep it up, you’ll regret it if you get rid of that part of your life.

  2. What a heartwarming tale. Obviously you can’t throw the freezer away, but can’t you switch it off and use it just as storage for something special?

  3. Ah Stuart, you have given all us older readers a sweet memory of times gone by. As I was reading, Aunt Alice replaced Nannie in my thoughts, and I could see myself, along with my brother, sister and cousins, sitting on top of our chest freezer, watching the adults as they shucked corn…… Sweet memories, for sure.

  4. Pingback: Frozen in Time | catsgeesonexaminer

  5. There was always a tub of Rum ‘n’ Raisin ice cream lurking at the bottom of our old freezer.

  6. Nicely done. You have a gift to be able to bring the reader into this heartwarming tale. Thank you.

  7. I am falling in love with my refrigerator and freezer. Yes there is so much life centered around it. My kids art work hangs up on the refrigerator, kids science projects in freezer. Picture of Grandpa and my daughter playing together before he passed away. Pumpkin buckets on top of refrigerator filled with halloween candy. I always look forward to you posts. Thanks for writing. You help me to slow down and notice things more. So many things I overlook and take for granted.

  8. Sharon Eshler

    So many great memories in that story! Obviously, no butter beans left in that freezer!!!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  9. Do not throw out that freezer! It will last forever!

  10. Annette Rochelle Aben

    so enchanting… makes me smile

  11. What a beautiful tribute, both to your family and to a faithful freezer that has seen a lot of comings and goings in its day. Well written!

  12. My Grandma had a chest freezer on her porch, too. She kept those push up plastic wrapped pop cycles in it (among the butchered meat and garden veggies) for all her grandchildren. I remember mother cats choosing “behind the freezer” to have their kittens…..

  13. While it probably cost a fortune in electricity to run, at least it is still plugging along. I have an ancient freezer that now serves as storage for horse blankets…it keeps the mice from nesting in them.

  14. AC

    With this story, I visualize it all as if I were there. Thanks for the “frozen” memories.

  15. This old freezer and your Nannie brought me right back to my Gramma and Papa’s old freezer. I can envision my Grams aproned hind end sticking out of her freezer as she too, was often chest-deep into it. Thank you for sharing such a lovely story.

  16. whatwouldtheneighboursay

    What a wonderful story, heart warming and poignant, I love it!

  17. There’s an old freezer in my family too. It’s been running all of my life and I’m 64. My mother used to joke with me that she should be buried in it. She wasn’t and it’s still running, without skipping a beat, in the garage.

  18. Great story. Guess we all have memories of old things that brought the extended family together.

  19. I love sentimental stories. The freezer seems to be part of the family.

  20. Whatever the place, we should never lose the joy of telling the family’s stories.

  21. We had similar at my parents’ house but it was a refrigerator. And the outdated canned goods–my mother’s jelly, frozen blueberries–that I can relate to also. I miss the comfort of going to that house and opening up that refrigerator, which I’d done umpteen times since my teenaged years. Knowing it would always be stocked, even if with dated goods . . .

  22. ohtogoawandering

    This is so poignant and beautifully written. I wouldn’t be able to throw it out, either.

  23. Thank you for the lovely read!

  24. Brenda taylor

    Stuart – your writing continues to amuse and inspire. Keep up the good work.

  25. I was following you for some time and then somehow got lost. So glad to be back and reading your words.

  26. Stuart, what a great story. My mum lived on a farm and when the cows came across the yard for milking, usually one of them would end up in the barn with you, with its head stuck in the freezer as you searched about in there, looking for something to cook.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and liking my posts. Good to meet you and you have another follower.

  27. tothenthdegree

    This is just great. Really great.

  28. I like that you’ve painted something so vivid about something that is otherwise fairly mundane–an old freezer being passed down through the years. Thanks!

  29. Loved this. It brought me down memory lane to my grandpa and grandmas chest freezer. It got sold off at a farm auction, many years ago, when they moved off the farm.

  30. Beautiful story! We have quite a few old chest freezers here on the farm filled with meat and veggies and supplies. It’s a nightmare keeping track of things that get lost down in their depths so I try to be strict about what goes in them. One of them gave up the ghost a while ago so I now use it to make compost in the back yard. It’s a great way to keep it going!

  31. Loved your story, Stuart, and I intend to reblog it tomorrow as the first one on my blog to mark National Short Story Week..

  32. I always enjoy your reminiscing. Great story about the beauty in the simple things.

  33. Such an engaging slice of life! Enjoyed it very much! –Dennis

  34. lisa d

    Another beautiful story. You are so fortunate to have such wonderful family memories. LOVE Nannie.

  35. Aah….So many memories in this treasure of a piece. We too had a freezer just like that in our “back kitchen” where many of the same activities took place. In fact, on a warm summer night a little over 45 years ago my husband slipped an engagement ring on my finger just in front of it. Just celebrated our 45th last weekend! Hardly a romantic beginning but our marriage has kept humming along all these years too so perhaps it was a good start after all. Thankyou Stuart.

  36. Great short story! It reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad about all the important parts of life our kitchen table has been a part of. 🙂

  37. They do not make freezers likes days of old anymore. I just tossed out my Fisher & Paykel freezer that served me well since I first moved in. It saw decades of great freezing. Nice sharing and yes, great memories. 😀

  38. Reblogged this on Bryan Hemming and commented:
    The first short story I am reblogging comes from Stuart M. Perkins of Storyshucker. A beautiful exercise in nostalgia, Frozen in Time demonstrates how the most mundane of domestic items can evoke powerful feelings of nostalgia in us all. In this case he breathes life into the 1960s freezer, which used to belong to Nannie, to transmit the emotions associated with its history. A great tale told simply, it is all a short story should be.

  39. Karen

    Love this one my dear. Reminds me of some of our memories growing up. Makes me smile.

  40. simplysamad

    After God, very few things matter as much as the family and what your story does is to remind us how important the family is through the eyes of the freezer and you’ve ended up with yet another brilliant piece. May the good Lord bless your thoughts and grant you fulfilment in all that you do.

  41. Thank you for helping me remember my Nanny’s freezer. It sat all by itself in an unheated front room, wallpapered in food smells. She’d pull out ice cubes covered in frost and plop them in a glass of sticky orange soda–at 9:00 a.m. in the morning!

  42. I should hope not! This is a lovely piece. It reminded me of my mother’s freezer, that looked quite similar. When we went it to clean it out after she died, we found all sorts of ancient and unidentifiable packages. There could have been a cut up body in there!

  43. Lovely in both the story and the telling! Thank you!

  44. Lovely. Don’t toss the freezer yet. Continue the story.

  45. What was it about those old freezers? My grandparents had one in the cellar and I remember my grandmother making butter on its lid. I don’t know what became of it. Perhaps when they moved 1000 miles from the farm, that was too far. Across the field, it might have survived. Thanks, as always, for the memories.

  46. Brings back memories for me, thanks!

  47. Stuart, what an absolutely lovely story. Thank you for visiting me today so that I could follow you over here to read it.

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