“What’s on the Refrigerator?”

For at least a generation now, it’s been customary to show off our little darlings’ artwork at the epicenter of our homes – the refrigerator.

Yes, somewhere around 1980, pre-historic magnets apparently evolved and crawled up out of the tar pits, seeking a new domicile.  Soon, they mysteriously learned to reproduce, often with cute colorful plastic disguises, like ladybugs, daisies, and letters of the alphabet.  Before we knew it, they became hideous mutations, smearing themselves with advertisements for insurance agents, radio stations, ambulance-chasing lawyers – even churches.

Then, somewhere in the night, they began to attach themselves to everyone’s favorite large appliance.  Their appetites insatiable, they would not be stopped until their demands had been met: that they be used to secure the artwork of tiny hands full of crayons, magic markers and primary-colored paints.

And now, in homes all across this great land, 20-cubic foot Frigidaires everywhere have been adorned with adolescent construction paper masterpieces.

And we’ve just let it happen.  Why?  Because it’s become the standard way of showing the wee ones… that we’re proud of them.

When I was a kid, our refrigerator had one color:  white.  And nothing attached to it – not even fingerprints, let alone finger-paints.  So after I’d channeled my inner-Rembrandt in Mrs. Yando’s kindergarten class, I would then bring home my artwork, get the obligatory positive parental feedback, and… that was that.  I now wonder – how many times did Mom run off, sobbing, “OH!  What shall we do with this masterpiece?  If ONLY there was a way to attach it to the refrigerator!!”

ge2drOld FridgeBut no.  Sadly, my elementary art gallery was never displayed, never anchored by… refrigerator magnets.

Now, looking back, there was one particular crayon-creation of mine that actually made quite a stir.  Though my fellow kindergarteners had pretty much embraced the reality of 26 letters, we still hadn’t learned to use them in conjunction with each other.  But I had a big brother, a dad and a chalkboard at home, so I – unbeknownst to Mrs. Yando – had already learned a bit of reading and writing from Bob 1 and Bob 2.

In this particular “piece,” I had drawn a picture of me, flying out of my playground swing, head first toward the chimney of our house, which of course had black smoke billowing out of it – as if my parents burned tires to keep us warm…  The picture implied that I was going to quickly make a Santa Claus entrance – just in time for supper.  But then – I did the unthinkable….

I wrote something along the bottom.  I wrote, “Oops, I have to go home!”  I wasn’t supposed to know how to do that.  But – thanks to Bob 1 and Bob 2 – I wasn’t Rembrandt… I was Einstein.

They thought I was a genius.  Seriously– my teacher, the principal, the 5th graders who quizzed me like I was some sort of mini-science experiment, all thought I was a prodigy.   They even wanted me to skip straight to second grade – all from one piece of “art!”  (I’m not making this up.)

I’ve since devoted the rest of my life to proving them wrong!!

Obviously, they did get it wrong.  Fortunately, my parents and my brother’s first grade teacher all knew skipping a grade would be a mistake.  Thank God, I didn’t end up in Bob 2’s class …for he’s the real genius.

Fact is, though, we all missed it.  It wasn’t about reading and writing, or art (definitely not about art!)  It was actually… a cartoon; my very first attempt at comedy writing… a pre-indicator of who I was to become.

I’ll bet you had similar experiences – not necessarily ones that got all the academics’ undies in a bunch – but flashes of brilliance may have been vibrant illustrations of who you are – who you would become.  Boy, if only someone had noticed….  Maybe Someone did.

I’ve often wondered – what happened to that picture that stirred up all that commotion?  Where is it now?  Gone forever?  Maybe – but upon asking that question, suddenly a thought popped into my not-so-genius mind.

I’ll bet it’s hanging on God’s refrigerator.  He made me the goofball I am, and that crayon masterpiece was one of the first indications.  And He’s proud of me.

He’s got a big refrigerator and lots of magnets.  So, what’s He displaying there with your name at the bottom?  Write to me – and share them!

Photo by Denis Byrne

Happy Father’s Day!

In fairness to my mom – it’s time to pay tribute to my dad, Bob Brownlee, Sr. 

Dad Pic1














Among many other good things, he was my first barber – so it’s only fair to say that he helped to inspire this barbershop… uh, “gem.” (except the singing part – he’s a good singer!)   Happy Father’s Day, Dad.