Freezer People


I come from a long line of freezer people. We save and we store and we plan and we work. Growing up, every Sunday after church, we would go to the grocery store to buy food on sale to put into the freezer. After a Saturday bake day, we would stick loaves of bread and cinnamon rolls in the freezer. Fall berry picking would always be followed by freezing and storing. 

For most of my childhood, I believed that cookies tasted best cold and crunchy, direct from the freezer, not fresh from the oven. When we would have leftovers of something delicious that couldn’t be frozen, someone would often sigh and announce that, “well, I guess we have to eat the rest of that pie before it goes bad.” In the world of freezer people, duty, sacrifice, and hard work are often second to delight, even when the experience was, in fact, delightful.

It is not just Russian Mennonites who are freezer people. Embryos. Cryogenic freezing. Lose a finger in an accident? Put it on ice. Stockpile knowledge so you will be ready to achieve your potential tomorrow.  Always be saving for a rainy day. If you just used your privilege a little more, you could change the world. 

I didn’t know a different way until I moved to Colombia. There, when it was mango and avocado season, piles of produce would appear on my doorstep, but nobody stuck them in a freezer. Instead, we would sit around gossiping, mango juice running down our chins and peels littering the streets, echando cuentos.  

After reparations arrived in Mampujan, my neighbours walked around giving each other all the gifts they didn’t have the resources to provide during years of scarcity. In a political and economic system with no institutional social safety net, who you knew and cared for was more important than what you stored. Good relationships based on generosity with neighbours and relatives would guarantee your long term social security far more than individual abundance kept for a distant future. The influx in cash caused the local economy to blossom. The local store bought an ice cream freezer. I would eat at least two Chococonos a day until the power went out everywhere and all the ice cream melted. Instability, in all senses, made freezer culture impossible.  

Some neighbours did buy fridges with their money. Instead of filling the freezer compartment with food, they made ice and popsicles from leftover juice to sell. The small income allowed them to buy daily rice to feed their families. People made the best choices they could, based on what made sense in their context. 

In the office in Bogota my colleagues were also not freezer people. There was always time for lunch in the back patio, updates in staff meetings about people’s families, retreats and storytelling, and of course, making fun of each other. There were strong differences of opinion, tense and very serious security situations, along with moments of political polarization that created enormous challenges, yet we still planned work schedules around the World Cup so that we could all yell at the television together. 

It is of course wonderful to be able to have unexpected guests and pull together a meal from ingredients close at hand, weather winter with a full pantry, reattach a limb, have that baby, resurrect from the dead, live forever. Due to my parent’s ability to save and to freeze, they are able to be generous with their resources, donate to charity and to volunteer their time for causes that they find important. I’m grateful to have grown up with a sense of service and an encouragement to see beyond myself to work for change. 

Yet back in Canada, I find myself pushing back against some of the implied rules of duty over delight, of order and certainty over possibility.  Despite all of our hard work, freezing and scrimping and storing, when is anything ever certain?

Enjoyment of the moment is also a valid life option. Our salvation may be found less in the good works nestled among the ice cubes, and a little more in the relationships we build with the people around us as we seek joy and even transformation together. Delight does not always have to be coupled with duty.

I’m not quite sure where I want to take this in my own life but I can feel a giddiness setting in as spring arrives. I’ve started to talk to random strangers in the grocery store and on the street simply to experiment with possibilities. I’m slowly going back to church, not because I have to, but because of the beauty of voices reverberating around the sanctuary as we sing. I eat cookies, fresh out of the oven, one after another, simply because I can. And then I quickly stick the rest in the freezer, because I’m freezer people too.

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