Tonya and I have been together for more than a decade now. Being married has brought me more happiness than I deserve but it’s also been revelatory. I was a bachelor for most of my life and apparently, according to my wife, I have a few quirky traits that I once thought were “normal.”
One day, a while back, I peered into our refrigerator and realized there wasn’t enough room for even one more item. Tonya saw me trying to wedge leftovers next to the zucchini and suggested we take stock of the contents. “what could be tossed? she wondered. I nodded warily.
“Okay,” she said. “First, there’s a can of maple syrup in the back. It’s been in there since we met. We should use that up or get rid of it.”
I shook my head. “No…we can’t do that. The syrup stays.”
“But we’ve never used it. what’s the attachment to a can of syrup?”
“Well,” I replied, “That syrup’s been in the fridge since 1984.”
“What? 1984? That’s..uh…over a quarter century ago. You were still a ranger at Arches and weighed 132 pounds soaking wet, and I was…well never mind.”
“That’s exactly right.”
She paused a moment. “Wait a minute,” she observed. “This isn’t even the same fridge. You moved the syrup from one fridge to another?”
“Actually I moved it from…let’s see… It’s moved three times in 36 years.”
“But you’re not even sure it’s edible!”
“Yes…that’s right. In fact, I’m almost certain it’s inedible. You see, honey…it’s historical.”
I felt as if the strength of our marriage was about to be tested.
“The maple syrup is…historical.” She didn’t state it as a question. It was more of a declaration of resignation. A weary acknowledgement that this is indeed the man she chose to marry. Tonya just nodded.
“Yeah. Well, you see, an old ranger buddy of mine at Arches once brought that syrup back from Vermont. I’ve been traveling with that syrup ever since.”
Tonya seemed slightly amused and marginally touched by my sentimentality “Okay,” she shrugged, “the syrup stays. But what about this?” She held up a jar that appeared to have once contained jelly. “Surely I can throw this away. It looks sort of disgusting. It has a 1987 date on it, for pity’s sake.”
I grabbed the jar out of her hands. “No way. That’s jelly from Lil McCormick. I could never throw that jelly away.”
“But,” Tonya pleaded, “There are strange things growing in that jar. Look!”
There was no denying, it was rather gruesome. There were colors and shapes and consistencies in that container that may have never previously existed in Nature. It had all the makings of the next Pandemic.
“But Lil was a dear friend of mine. She was a school teacher in Moab for decades and was a wonderful friend. Read the label. It says, ‘To Jim..from his ever lovin’ Lil.’ How could I throw something like that away? Lil died years ago and when I see that jelly I think of her. That jelly triggers good memories.”
Tonya put the jar back on the shelf. “Next? What’s this?” She held up a small opened bottle of white wine. “Surely we can toss this.”
I smiled at the sight of that bottle. Such fond memories. “Oh yes..Mohammed Tabouch.”
“Okay…let’s hear the story.”
I really do love telling stories.
“So…I was riding Amtrak from San Antonio to L.A. It was January 1990. They let me board early because the train was going to leave in the middle of the night. But I boarded the wrong train, fell asleep and wound up on a siding at 3 AM. When I woke up and realized what had happened, I ran into the station almost in tears.
“They put me on a plane to El Paso and I met my own train when it came through the next afternoon. After that, the AMTRAK people wouldn’t let me out of their sight, for fear I’d get lost again. They assigned a young fellow named Mohammed Tabouch to watch me. He gave me this wine in hopes I would get drunk and sit still…I think they were under the impression I was an idiot.”
I could tell she wanted to follow up on my “idiot” remark, but decided to let it go. “But this wine bottle is full…you didn’t even drink it.”
“I drank a little…But I wanted to save it as a memento.”
“So you put the SCREW CAP back on a bottle of cheap wine and have kept it in your historical refrigerator ever since…for 31 years.”
Resignation shadowed Tonya’s lovely face. “And this?” she sighed.
“Ahhh…my bottle of ‘Night Train Express.” Bill Benge brought that back from Gallup, New Mexico. Horrible stuff. I sure miss that guy. I can’t believe he’s been gone for over a decade now. I wonder what he’d think of the world of 2020”
“So you want to keep it, because every time you see the Night Train Express, it reminds you of Bill.”
“So, in order for you to maintain this historical connection, we need to reduce the usable capacity of our refrigerator by about 15%. You know, like food products we can actually eat, that haven’t turned to mold or solidified into unidentifiable masses of whatever..”
“I’d guess it’s no more than 10 to 12%.”
Tonya sighed. “I don’t know if I’ve ever known anyone who had a historical fridge until I met you. And now I am married to him.” My wife was about to close the door when she spied one more item, in the far rear left corner. It was a bottle of Kulmbacher beer.
“Now this…this rings a bell.”
“Oh yeah! That’s the beer that Ed Abbey gave me in 1987.”
Tonya pounced. “Yes! I knew it sounded familiar. You mentioned it in ‘Brave New West.’ But in your book you DRANK the beer. How can it still be in our fridge?”
“I can explain. Actually Ed gave me two Kulmbachers. He said if I ever met my soulmate I’d be ready to celebrate.”
Tonya smiled. “But you drank one of them and I’m your soulmate. Technically this beer belongs to me.” She grinned menacingly.
Then she took the Kulmbacher and put it back in its rightful corner. “If it means that much to you, we’ll leave it right where it is…right where it belongs.” She kissed me and went outside to pick more zucchinis.
Just then, I knew I was the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
Jim Stiles is Founding Publisher and Senior Editor of the Canyon Country Zephyr.