William Carlos Williams, Ice Boxes & RefrigeratorsTuesday, December 11, 2007
If I were to tell my Rebecca that I flew in a DC-3 she would not know what I was talking about. If I told her that in Buenos Aires we had our ice delivered every four days by the hielero (the ice man) and that a cloaquero or drain man came to my house to clear our drains once a month (the stench!), she would not understand. She is from a generation that has no reason to look up into the sky when it hears the noise of an airplane. But she is not all that far gone. A few years ago I took her to the Abbotsford Air Show and I asked her which airplane was her favourite. Her reply was instant, "I like the F-15 because it is the loudest." When Rebecca comes over on Saturdays the first thing she does is raid our refrigerator. I would never tell her not to. I remember the first time I opened a refrigerator door. It was exciting. After all it was in 1952 and I was ten. Until that year that hielero had delivered a block of ice (I am not sure) about once a week. But since my mother, who taught at the Buenos Aires American School, had friends and connections with the US Embassy she brought home stuff like poppy seed bagels, Erector sets, Bazooka and Double Bubble gum, and that wonderful used Kelvinator which made me king of the block. A neighbour had a spanking new Ford V-8 but that was nothing compared to our heladera. In the heladera I made my first package of lime Jell-O. Royal, the Argentine brand, wasn't good enough and lemon Royal was simply not green at all! I remember concocting what I called a refrigerio. I would slice sweet oranges. Scraping at them with a spoon was a delight. The most beautiful aspect of our heladera is that it had the compressor motor sitting on the top. Looking back I think it resembled a Russian space station. The heladera became a refrigerador in Mexico City but my mother insisted it be a Kelvinator. When my mother moved to Veracruz in the late 50s she bought a Kelvinator there. We brought that Kelvinator back to Mexico City when Rosemary and I installed ourselves in the outskirts of Mexico City. We quickly outgrew it. We needed a bigger one. I sold the the Kelvinator to one of my English students. A day later I received an irate call from her. She was sending it back. It was disgusting she protested. I had not checked the back of the fridge and it had traveled from Veracruz with nests of cockroaches. The insect was impossible to erradicate in Veracruz and we had learned to live with them. In the end we scrapped it and bought a Kenmore at Sears Roebuck the Mexico. Every once in a while when Rebecca raids our present Kenmore (the Richmond store) she asks me to read her a poem that is one of our favourites. And when I do so she repeats the words at the same time as she knows it by heart.
This Is Just To Say I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold
William Carlos Williams.
To further complicate matters, Spaniards call the Argentine heladera and the Mexican refrigerador a frigorífico. My Spanish grandmother made it much more simple. She always called it la Kelvinator. Because of fluctuating voltage in Latin America, fridges never last more than a couple of years before their compressor motors burn out. The rewiring of the motor cores is a thriving business. The mechanic shops advertise as rebobinado (re-coring). Since the freon or the freon substitute coolant gas escapes during this operation there is another business....