An icy lesson in contentment

June 25, 2019


Early in our marriage, Bob and I had a house that came with a refrigerator that didn’t have an ice-maker. I know, it was a modern-day, first-world tragedy. It was tough, but after much soul-searching, we decided we had to live with it for a while until we could afford other silly things like food, shelter and baby diapers. 

I bought blue plastic ice-cube trays, which weren’t easy to find, and I even came across an old metal tray with the pull-lever that was never easy to pull but oh, so quaint and cute. Each cube of ice became a precious commodity in our hot, humid Southern climate. When company came, we’d splurge on store-bought ice and felt like royalty. 

One summer, college friends visited, and we didn’t have time to get a bag of ice, so we made do with what we had. After dinner, I carefully refilled the trays and put them into the freezer so we’d have lots of ice the next day. But at breakfast, our friend decided to forgo the hot coffee and poured himself a big Co-cola. Making himself at home, which we loved, he casually dumped an entire tray of ice into his giant tumbler. 

Bob and I almost fell over from horror.  We’ve laughed for years about how something as tiny as an ice cube could suddenly become so precious. Our plans for the day immediately changed because one of us had to run to the Gassy-Go and buy more ice. 

Focusing on what we don’t have reaches beyond material things. 

Those who are lonely dream about friends. Those who can’t read crave stories. A child without a father only sees daddies everywhere he looks. And a broken heart craves love. And yes, there are people in the world who only thirst for clean water, frozen or not. We are wired to focus on what is missing, and to locate the piece of the puzzle that completes us, even when it’s something as simple as a cold drink on a humid Alabama day. 

After we saved our money and remodeled the kitchen, we splurged and added a separate ice maker. I loved that appliance (almost) more than any child I’ve had. I’d sit on the floor and polish it until it was as shiny as Miss America’s crown. If I put my ear against it, it would hum for me. The magical invention made little nugget shaped ice with a divot in the center to cuddle our beverages. Sometimes, if we were in a bad mood, we’d extravagantly fill big cups with cubes and swirl them round and round — just to watch them die. 

It’s only human to want what we don’t have and ignore the gifts already present. The tea may be refreshingly sweet, but dang, if it was only cold, we’d love it more. 

We moved away from that house and left the ice-maker behind, and it’s true that once a luxury is tasted, it becomes a necessity, because now, even though we have plenty of regular old ice-in-the-door used by most commoners, we still talk about the dreamy olden days when we had a specialized ice maker. Then again, we also reminisce about the simple days when all we needed to make us happy was a case of diapers and a few chunks of ice in our tea. 

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