Cooler holds food, memories

Published 1:05 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

While our son bustled around our house gathering his belongings in preparation for his return to southwest Louisiana last weekend, my husband hunted an ice chest in our garage. During our son’s brief visit, I had visited Wingard’s Farm Market and bought several bags of his favorite peas, along with some nice, firm, delicious Alabama tomatoes for him. I blanched the peas and froze them, so they were ready to pack in an ice chest.

I had to smile as my husband brought in a small ice chest we’ve had for years. I can’t begin to count how many times we lugged it along on camping trips. For some time, however, it has sat forgotten in a corner in the garage, pushed back as we reached for two larger ones on our monthly grocery shopping trips. It was dusty and in need of some soapy water and a good scrubbing inside and out. When I finished that little job, it looked better, but there was no doubt it had seen better days.

I poured a generous amount of ice cubes into a plastic bag and placed it in the ice chest. Then, after over-wrapping the frozen bags of peas, I placed them on top of the bag of ice. Just to make sure everything kept as cold as possible, I included an ice pack from my freezer that came with a Honey Baked Ham we received last December. My daughter and I packed a few more items in the chest, including a foil-wrapped hunk of pound cake from Dean’s Cake House, some soft drinks, and the bag of tomatoes.

When I closed the chest, I smoothed masking tape over two holes in the hard plastic cover after stuffing a paper napkin in each one. Every time I see that ice chest, I remember and chuckle over how those holes got there. Years ago, I had placed the little chest beside our travel trailer at our campsite in Gulf State Park. We took along some bird seed on that trip to see what kind of birds we could attract in that woodsy setting. Birds came, but squirrels soon outnumbered them. After I scattered seeds close to our campsite, I put the bag with the remaining seeds in the ice chest. I went back inside and sat down to read. When I glanced out the window, I saw a squirrel standing on its hind legs chomping down on the ice chest cover, trying its best to gnaw its way into the chest. I opened the door and yelled. It raced away, leaving little fragments of hard plastic on the ground and those holes on top of the lid.

Surprisingly those holes weren’t deep enough to affect the ice chest’s efficiency. It served its purpose many times over. “I’ll bring it back next visit,” our son said, as he fitted it in his car. We won’t miss it, of course, but it has brought us a smile of remembrance through the years.