When Mom died, one of the legacies she left behind, besides all the precious and dear family heirlooms, was the freezer out in the garage. Remember that we had nine, sometimes ten people living in the house at the height of the Cross family years. That required, it was believed, a significant store of ready-to-thaw freezer items. At some point, Mom and Dad bought the mother of all chest freezers. I think it must have been over five feet long and over four foot tall – I’m sure it was from Sears – and over the years, even when children moved out and the family shrunk from ten to three to two, still the freezer was packed to the top with more items than I could ever imagine. In the last 5-10 years, the freezer lid was used as a flat surface in the garage to store hundreds of other items stacked on top, so that the freezer itself was never opened, but continued to hum along, keeping Arctic temperatures summer and winter. By the way, the huge freezer compartment next to the giant refrigerator in the kitchen – because there needed to be enough place to store food, even when everyone left – was also packed so solid you couldn’t put anything in there.
When we were cleaning out the garage, everyone kept avoiding the freezer. Finally, the tons of stuff was removed from the top, and we decided to open it. There, sure enough, was a frozen body… no, just kidding – there was, however, meat and vegetables, and fruit and ice cream and ice – because you might someday need ice that was a decade old, freezing up against some chicken breasts. The best news is that I had to leave and fly home before the decision was finally made about what to do with all the food. Somewhere in the discussion was even the idea that the food might still be good, since it hadn’t been opened for so long. I won’t say which sibling made that observation, but it was met with incredulous stares and silence. Since the house has been sold, I am assuming the freezer has also gone the way of all – appliances.
I’m sad to say that this freezer stuff is genetic. I know that out at Cheri’s folks’ farm in the garage, there is also a chest freezer holding food – Cheri’s folks haven’t lived there for more than three years, but that part of the ice age continues. As well, even though there have been times we have tried to not carry on that trait, we too have a freezer – an upright that we have owned for more than 25 years (the things just won’t die), but fortunately have moved five times, so it did have to be emptied and defrosted from time to time.
Still, this pandemic has not been good for freezer maintenance. Somehow, we have equated a widespread disease with worldwide famine, and so, besides toilet paper and eggs and Clorox wipes, there has been a long-standing run on anything that could be frozen. I guess the rationale was that, as we were hunkered down, with our curtains drawn, we would at least have food we could thaw out and cook, even though much of the time, we simply ordered in food that was delivered, and our little freezer kept humming along, doing its job.
We (meaning Cheri) decided that it was time to start using some of the stores of frozen things, before we would buy any new stuff. Now, I know you may have heard some nonsense about the length of time something can go in a frozen state before it’s not good anymore, but that’s just silly – I hope. As we made up the menu for this holiday weekend, we decided that it was time to cook my famous prime rib roast – a wonderful item that roasts in the oven at low temperature, after being coated with olive oil, garlic and onion powder, pepper and kosher salt, so that it is encrusted. I have to tell you – it is a great meal.
So, I went to the freezer, since I knew I had bought a roast a while back, and reached to the back and found the package of the right shape and weight, pulled it out and took it into the kitchen to thaw overnight. At this point, we began that dangerous and often failed game of “freezer roulette.” We may THINK we know what’s wrapped up in the white freezer paper, but until it is thawed, we can’t be sure. Yes, I know they tease with a sticker on it, but there was a time past when I pulled out steaks, and they miraculously turned into chicken breasts overnight. The package I pulled out – which looked and felt like a prime rib roast – actually had on it the words “Prime Rib Steak.” What is that? Yes, there are ribeye steaks, but “prime rib” is only to be used to refer to the roast itself, or the slabs of meat that get cut off the roast and fill the plate, with a little bit of room for potatoes and corn.
So, off it went to thaw and get ready for Labor Day. Just a while ago, Cheri asked if it were really the roast, or something else. There is a thought experiment called Schrödinger’s cat, which proposes that a cat is in a container. Is it alive or dead? Since the container is sealed and there is no way to know, the idea is that it could be both alive and dead at the same time, until the container is opened, and one discovers the empirical truth. It was used to argue with Einstein about quantum superposition. Enough of that. The thing is, we had “Schrodinger’s roast” wrapped up in our refrigerator. It was both the roast, and something else at the same time, until we decided to further investigate.
Well, we ended up with Schrödinger’s steaks. Not the prime rib roast. Apparently somewhere in this culture you can actually get away in calling something a “prime rib steak.” Anyway, two good things we can take away from this: one – it’s early enough to fix the steaks and have some corn on the cob the way we like to cook it, and two – steaks. Somewhere in the bowels of the freezer, most likely on a lower shelf, blocked by frosted up ice cream and broccoli – so much broccoli – sits the frozen meat block, waiting for another time.
Without realizing how witty she is, Cheri inadvertently called what happened a “case of mistaken identity.” What I heard, however, and began to laugh about out loud, was that she called it a “case of mis-steaken” identity. Good one, Cheri.
Once again, when we opt to live an accidental life, we find ourselves with accidents in our lives. Now, it’s not a tragedy that we will be eating ribeyes tomorrow, but I am glad it wasn’t a prime rib shaped piece of chicken liver… not sure how that would make it into our freezer, but that’s beside the point. When we close our eyes and pull something out of the freezer, and call it good enough, it indeed is freezer roulette. When we do the same with any part of our life, it’s not creating a surprise, or even an adventure. It is leaving our future and even our well-being, and our place in the world, to just how things might turn out. Now, we always taught the boys never to use the word, “stupid,” because even though it is descriptive, it’s just not a nice word. Actually, we had to put that limit on, since for a time, Aaron, about three years old, would call his one-year-old brother that epithet continually, and we didn’t want Adam to grow up thinking that was his name.
Let’s just say that living accidentally is ill-advised, and sets aside thoughtful, mindful and deliberate decision-making, that some may indeed label as “stupid.” Indeed, sometimes accidents happen, and sometimes we just put our attention down and those things occur as a result, but it should always be occasional – never a pattern of behavior, because frankly, God made us with a brain and a bearing to think before we speak, before we act, and before we drive down the mountainside with our eyes blindfolded, refusing to use the brake.
Use what God has given you this day – and intentionally love and forgive and act with all the gifts and ability placed within you. And if you somehow end up with ribeyes, that’s ok.
Word for the day: ravel. What a fun word, and we think we know what it means, right? Pronounces as it looks, RA-vul, it actually has Dutch roots. The original root is rafel, which means “frayed thread.” From that root, two equal Dutch words emerged. Ravelen, which means “to tangle, or to fray,” and rafelen, (one letter different), meaning, “to untangle, or unweave.” So our word today means both to untangle or make something unwoven, but also to tangle, to confuse, or to make a royal mess out of, like when Cheri hands me her thin, delicate gold necklace and asks me to “ravel” it?
The word/words of course have the root meaning in weaving and sewing. When threads end up no longer being neatly raveled in a cloth or a weaving, but instead become “at loose ends,” then they are horrible ravelled, unwoven, and with loose threads, their tendency is to “ravel” as they see fit, and not how the weaver or sewer wishes them to be. Neat word.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.