This is the truth about marriage: it's not always the physical differences that define the roles, but more often, it's the availability. For instance, when it came to defrosting the refrigerator, one pulled the fridge away from the wall and the other cleaned up the mess. I didn’t get stuck with the cleaning part because I couldn’t pull the fridge out, but because I had the morning free to clean.
I was almost finished when I stuck my nose in the freezer and a rotting smell hit me. I moved the ice cube trays out of the way and saw two large plastic bags in the back. I pulled one out and found a chunk of snow saved from last year at the ski basin when there was so little to enjoy down here. That was funny; it had snowed six inches yesterday. No need to keep that memory. I tossed the bag in the sink to melt.
But the other bag was still stuck. No, it couldn’t be—that smell. The plastic ripped away in my hands leaving a huge chunk of blood still melded to the freezer floor. It couldn’t be anything else. Nothing would have that much blood. And all of it thawing—the black ice turning rich red.
I was looking at a frozen placenta.
It was at that moment of realization that my youngest, Asher, let me know the truck with our new fridge had arrived. My cell phone rang. I washed my hands and talked to the driver who was walking down the driveway. He wasn’t sure his truck would make it. I told him I’d pull him out with my 4-wheel drive if he got stuck.
We met out front and he confirmed the deeply packed snow on the walk wouldn’t be a problem. He and his buddy came in to check their navigation and I quickly closed the freezer door. I was aware of blood stains beginning to pool around the bottom of the fridge, watery pink on the yellow linoleum.
To my horror, the extra guy suddenly pulled the fridge completely away from the wall to check behind it. Black filth on the floor, years of it. While the new fridge was getting prepared outside, Asher—bless his heart—started cleaning the floor behind the fridge and I went back to my blood bath, frantically trying to finish before they got down the hill.
The smell was ripe now and I gagged. With an entire roll of paper towels, I mopped blood from the white plastic grooves of the freezer, tossing each handful of slushy pink ice into the trash. Still the large mass wouldn’t budge.
I felt as guilty as a murderer. How would I explain this to two moving guys, one with a Korn T-shirt? Would they even know what a placenta was?
Then I realized exactly whose placenta was defrosting—Asher’s. Must be. We buried Talaya’s at the foot of Talaya Hill, Colin’s in the back yard of the house he was born in. This must be Asher’s from La Cienega. We hadn’t done anything with it the five years we lived there, or the five years we had it here.
I looked down at Asher scrubbing away in the corner. Ten years, was all I could think. Such a long time. Once Asher and this frozen meat were the same.
I grabbed a kitchen knife and began hacking away.
“What are you doing?” Asher’s porcelain white face peeked around the corner.
“Nothing,” I jumped when he spoke. “Go help those guys get around the couch, OK?”
Finally it was free. I dropped the ball of blood in the trash, wiped out the rest as best I could, mopped up the floor with more paper towels, washed my hands and tied up the garbage bag. I placed it in another bag, a dark green one. Now, where to put it? My hands were shaking. I started to laugh. I heard voices in the living room.
I rushed out back. In the dark part of the trash area, I slipped it into a garbage bucket and covered it with a plastic lid. I secured the criminal waste with half a cement block. I washed my hands once more in the sink, over and over again, feeling like Lady Macbeth.
When the new fridge was in place and the old one tipped back on the dolly, I watched carefully as small pools of brown water accumulated on the floor before they maneuvered it away.
Of course they got stuck in the driveway, even though I told them to start from a flat place and go very slowly: low and slow. But they speeded up just as they hit the patch of ice on the incline. I was watching from the window thinking I would have to suggest a tow, when a half-ton honked and stopped. A friend, apparently, with a chain to rescue them.
I ran off to a meeting in town and wasn’t back home until night. The first thing I saw when I walked into the kitchen was not the spanking new white fridge with the freezer more efficiently located on the bottom, but a small, dark green bag directly in front of me near the dining room’s sliding glass door. There it sat, knowing all my secrets.
“What’s that doing here?” I tried to sound normal.
“Oh, is that—the bag?” Ron—my husband, my traveling partner, the man who caught these kids when they were born—asked from the kitchen, as he looked over the counter.
“Yes, there were two.”
“I already took one out,” he said as he went back to fixing dinner. “I don’t know where that one came from.”
“You have to take that one to the dump. Tomorrow,” I insisted, still looking at it, feeling the urge to wash my hands.
Asher had already organized all our food into the new fridge, excited by an actual butter door and vegetable drawers. He had read the appliance book the moving guys had left behind and showed me the new temperature gauge.
But it was—no kidding—spring when I encountered it again. The bag was in a plastic bucket behind the old van we were using for a tool shed. I confronted my husband, who said he just couldn’t take it to the dump. He couldn’t throw it out.
What happened to us? In our twenties, when our first child was born, we knew the value of a placenta; we even ate some of it, having learned how rich in nutrients it was. That was us then: goat’s milk and cloth diapers, water births and no TV.
Things changed by the third kid. Life got more hectic. TV got better. And we forgot to have any kind of ceremony over the last placenta.
Well, we felt a little guilty, so we dug a hole out back under a giant piñon and dumped the contents of the bucket into it, holding our breath. There wasn’t enough dirt to fill the hole back up, so we settled a big piece of flagstone over it, hoping it would be too deep for the coyotes to be interested.
I was about to suggest we say a few words, like we were burying a pet, but that seemed wrong. We’d ended a huge cycle, here. We were giving the earth back to the earth, moving out of the guiding part of the parenting ride, and onto the hold-on-tight part of the roller coaster. New fridges and old blood: We could handle anything. So long as we took turns.