Having things explode in our faces or fall on our heads is a family pastime at my home. Fortunately, we’ve always made it out unscathed, so I can fondly remember event after accidental event. That reminds me of this one time my mother decided it was due season to defrost the freezer; it did have, after all, an inch of ice packed on each wall.
This was back when we were renting a three-bedroom apartment in a small town north of Barcelona. The apartment had been furnished in the early seventies with a wall-to-wall wood motif which we quickly dismantled and chucked into the nearest bin. The only working appliance in the kitchen was a refrigerator that barely reached our shoulders but proved to be sufficient for our small stomachs.
I remember that fateful day I came back from school and found my mother standing in front of the unplugged fridge, frozen goods strewn over the counter, mallet and butter knife in hand.
I asked her what she was planning on doing, and she announced with absolute resolution that she was defrosting the refrigerator.
“So you’re going to chisel it away?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“With a butter knife.”
“I know what I’m doing!” She said and waved me away with the mallet.
I could only imagine where this would go, so I decided to drop the subject and switched on the TV. I could clearly hear her banging, and every so often I heard the thud of a block of ice falling and her scrambling to pick it up and toss it in the sink. The work was clearly laborious so I insisted on helping her out.
“Oh, alright! Here,” she said as she handed me the mallet and makeshift chisel, “But be very careful when you hit it. Keep the knife at an angle and don’t hit it too hard or you might burst one of the gas pipes.”
Now that was an unexpected responsibility.
As a nervous drop of sweat ran down my temple, my mother stood behind me and observed how I carefully picked away at the ice in the freezer. Unsatisfied with my meagre shavings, she pried the tools out of my hands and scolded me for being too afraid.
“We’ll never finish at this rate,” she said as she set the knife in place.
And so, as I helplessly watched in time-lapse horror, my mother pounded the butter knife clean through the wall of the fridge and a white burst of gas immediately spewed out into her face. I still remember her blood-curdling screams to this day and, I must admit, my roaring laughter.
The fridge was irreparable, so we furtively disposed of it cloaked in night shadows. That evening we ate all the frozen food we could stuff into our bellies, and the next morning my mother ran to the store to buy a replacement refrigerator.
We learned a valuable lesson, and from then on we defrost the freezer with patience and a hairdryer.