An Exercise in Consciousness for Fridge Door
by Marissa Fortune
I started collecting fridge doors in the summer of 2015, when I moved into a shitty plateau apartment with five bedrooms, no furniture, a borrowed cat (named James - this is an essential detail), and roommates who had all migrated South for the season, leaving their belongings packed in boxes in the corners of our new, and overwhelmingly empty home.
As I walked through the vacant rooms, the floorboards creaked hesitant greetings, and I became determined to build something beautiful out of our not-so-gently-used student dwelling. When I came to the kitchen at the end of the hall, I noticed our fridge bathing in natural light from the open window opposite it. Left on its surface by the previous occupants were little magnets of cat butts, old photographs, take-out menus and a worn post-card of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Finally, in the centre of these objects was a photo of the very fridge that I was looking at. In the photo could be seen many of the same adornments that still remained on its surface. A photo of a fridge door on a fridge door, I fell in love with the concept how most people fall in love with things: for no apparent reason at all.
The summer passed and my roommates returned. Our home became filled with furniture, James went back to her real owner, classes began again and our fridge got covered with new photos and reminders, lists of chores, the Wi-Fi password and the schedule for garbage pick-up. Mundane life overwhelmed us all, and only in looking back do we now see how full of laughter and joy those days were. I was swept up in reveries of my upcoming exchange year, but as the semester drew to a close, I made sure to snap a photo of our fridge door with the photo of our fridge door on it. I printed these pictures and gave them as gifts to my roommates upon my departure to Paris as a token of our time together. That fridge door symbolized sharing space and meals and housework, it was a metaphor for all the simple ways in which we had shared our lives. Our fridge door meant family, and photos of our fridge door meant forever.
When I got to Paris I was once again tasked with turning a white-walled apartment into a home, a challenge I performed expertly thanks to my wealth of past experience in the field of trans-continental transition and my aptitude for the ritual of sticking postcards onto walls. I had no real kitchen in my tiny studio in the 3eme arrondissement, just a countertop, a couple elements and a mini-fridge. On my first night, out of my suitcase came our fridge-photo from Montreal, and onto my French mini-fridge it went.
Over the next couple months as new friends visited my apartment, some would notice it and say to me, “Your fridge has a photo of a fridge on it?” and I, not finding any logical explanation to offer, would reply, “Yeah… that’s kind of my thing now.”
I don’t know who it was who took that first fridge door photo that inspired me, but sometimes I wonder about them. Thanks to them, fridge doors have become an exercise in recognizing and paying tribute to the mundane aspects of life, they have become a symbol of how the past informs the present, and they have reminded me of how home is a state of consciousness when everything else seems random and variable.
Now, back in Montreal, and living just doors down from my original apartment, the kaleidoscope of fridge door photos continues. I’ve embraced it as a deeply strange but endearing archive of the places I have lived, and I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by what you find on their fridge door.