Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Family life centres around fridge magnets

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Maybe it's the return of the brutal cold snap, or maybe it's the fact I've just watched a teary-eyed Anthony Calvillo -- arguably the greatest quarterback in CFL history and my wife's favourite player for the way he stood by his wife during her battle with cancer -- announce his retirement, but I think we could all use something to make us feel warm and fuzzy this morning.

Which is why I want to share one of the most famous lines from one of the world's most famous poems -- yes, I realize not all of you are snooty poetry fans, but work with me here -- in a sincere and humanitarian effort to warm the cockles of your heart, assuming they have been frozen solid by the Arctic-style wind chill.

There is a point in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the stream-of-consciousness classic by the legendary poet T.S. Eliot, wherein the narrator famously states with a note of despair: "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."

What does that mean? Well, according to a university term paper I wrote back when I didn't get winded bending over to tie my shoes, it has something to do with regret about living a measured, tame, domestic life as opposed to slurping life down in huge gulps like an ice-cold beer. Or it may just be about drinking too much coffee.

My point today is I think T.S. Eliot got it wrong. Forget coffee spoons. If you are anything like me -- a football-loving, poetry-reading Canadian -- you've measured out your life with refrigerator magnets.

I realize we live in a social-media world where young, hip persons wielding smartphones and tablet computers instantaneously share every (bad word) aspect of their lives -- "Just bought chocolate milk and jalapeno chips! #feelingfat!" -- via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram and so on, but in our house, Communications Central is located in the kitchen and the main device for sharing life's essential moments is the refrigerator.

As families have been doing since the days of Leave it to Beaver (You can Google that, kids), the important pieces of our daily lives, including interfamily memos, medical documents, upcoming appointments, inspirational messages, recipes, photographs and kid-generated artwork, are prominently posted on the fridge -- all held in place by a dizzying assortment of cheap and cheesy ornamental magnets.

It's just the way Canadian families roll. Our kids may not return our phone calls or text messages, but we know with 100 per cent certainty they will eventually crave chocolate peanut butter ice cream and stand in front of the fridge, where, stuck to the freezer door with a wobbly head penguin magnet, is the urgent parental message: "CLEAN YOUR (VERY BAD WORD) ROOM!"

Which is often responded to with our daughter's trademark tirade, held in place with a magnet in the form of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, stating: "YOU'VE RUINED MY LIFE!"

If, for instance, I need to determine whether this morning I am supposed to get a vicious flossing from the dental hygienist or have the foot doctor stare in horror at my hobbit-like appendages, or simply get a quart of wax blasted out of my aging ears by the GP, I just have to flip through the assorted appointment cards affixed to the fridge by one of the dozens of basset hound magnets that litter its doors.

Our lives would likely descend into chaos and madness if it weren't for the hundreds of fridge magnets that keep things in the one place we can always find them.

Under the "Yay Bacon!" magnet given to me as an early Christmas gift are tickets to a recent Wellness Expo I really should have attended but couldn't, because it was at the same time as a vital NFL playoff game.

Pinned in a place of honour by a Scottish kilt magnet is an achingly cute postcard announcing the birth of Adrik Jon Tims, another grandson of Jon Thordarson, my beloved buddy and our former photo editor whom we lost after a lengthy battle with cancer.

A magnet in the shape of a miniature B.C. Lions helmet holds up a crumpled photo taken years ago on the day I met my famed sidekick Cooper, a basset hound with a heart of gold and the appetite of a great white shark who passed away last year.

Some of the magnets don't hold anything other than words of wisdom, like the basset magnet that howls: "May I always be the kind of person my dog thinks I am."

Yes, fridge magnets are definitely outdated technology, but they still hold a certain attraction. The stuff packed inside our antiquated refrigerator fills our stomachs, but it's the clutter stuck on the outside that feeds our souls. Even T.S. Eliot couldn't argue with that.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2014 0

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