According to the owner’s manual for our General Electric 10.6 Cubic-foot Chest Freezer, it should be defrosted every 6 to 12 months, or “whenever ice build-up has begun to collect.”

I didn’t exactly follow those manufacturer recommendations. Not even close. The freezer was a Christmas present from my brother Paul, 12 years ago.

I haven’t defrosted it once.

Until yesterday.

Freezer Burn

Our chest freezer is jam-packed with food. Which is a good thing, since I am trying to avoid grocery stores. Unfortunately, most of this food is encapsulated in layers of ice, created from years of neglect. This ice has crept up the inside walls of the freezer and oozed out the top, stopping the lid from shutting tightly.

I have more free time than usual, AND I need to access said food items. I could not put off defrosting this monstrosity any longer. I grabbed two plastic storage tubs (not sure why, but we have a TON of empty storage tubs) creating  “toss” and “keep” bins.

I first needed a tool to chip the ice away from the inside rim of the freezer. I grabbed a nifty tool leaning against my hubby’s new  wood  turning lathe. It would do nicely.

Chip, chip, chip, gouge, gouge, gouge, stab, stab, stab… the ice was flying and it was very satisfying breaking off big chunks of the stuff.

I heard a little girl’s scream and looked up to see Eric lunging towards me, his eyes wide like saucers and his arms straight out in front of him, all Frankenstein’s-monster-like.

“What are you doing?!” Eric’s voice, usually a mellifluous baritone, was still a few octaves higher than usual. And he was more than a little angry.

“Chipping this ice off with this thingy.” I thought it was pretty obvious, but I held it up so he could get a better look.

“That’s my Cryogenic Fingernail Bowl Gouge!” He was still stunned.

“Is it? It’s doing a great job… must be the cryogenic part. Great at chipping off the ice. Pretty heavy too. I can get a lot of power behind it and crack some big sections…” I was enthusiastic about my progress.

A rare interruption from Eric followed. “It costs $100! Use something else! This!” and shoves a lowly screwdriver in my face.

I relented and reluctantly handed him his precious gouge. Geesh.  He was being a little dramatic for someone who watches “The Woodwright’s Shop” on a regular basis.

This excitement over, I continued my ice removal, albeit at a considerably slower pace, and with much less enjoyment.

Chip, chip, chip, chip, gouge, gouge, gouge…

What started as a simple chore soon became a strangely sentimental walk down memory lane. Once I removed all the ice from the top rim of the freezer (the lid could now satisfactorily close), I started pulling out what untethered frozen food I could, and putting it in one of the tubs.

I recognized the items lying at the top: freezer-burned meat, frozen veggies, ruined melted/refrozen ice cream, the usual.

But as I dug deeper, and started stabbing at the layers of ice and removing the older items closer to the bottom of the freezer, I became a little emotional.

There were macadamia nuts, walnuts, sliced almonds, pounds of butter, white chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a few sacks of flour. Remnants of my cake-baking business. (There’s still a Facebook page out there. Search “Delicious Business” on FB. The business may have not taken off, but I still have the cutest logo you ever did see. ) I had forgotten all of my hours of work—hustling for sales non-stop, calling/visiting restaurants, baking 15 cakes a week and still not turning much of a profit. I learned that baking is fun until you are up until four in the morning making your ninth cake. Then it is something else altogether.

Next in the arctic dig I found a few pieces of ice cream cake, still in their original box with the cellophane window. I could just barely read the “lyn” and the “8th”. My daughter Evelyn’s 8th birthday party. She wanted an ice cream cake. She’s now 16, ansty to pass her driver’s test, and off to college in a few short years.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could freeze/thaw time like I froze her leftover cake?

Thankfully, I was almost done. The very bottom of the freezer, encased in a four-inch thick layer of ice, were eight ziploc gallon-size freezer bags filled with something red and chunky. And ruined with ice crystals. After 20 minutes of stabbing at the ice, I discovered what they were.

The words “TOMATOES- 2005” were written on masking tape labels in neat block letters on each bag. I instantly recognized my mother’s printing, and her carefully frozen blanched tomatoes from her massive garden.

She passed away in March of 2018, and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t feel that awful pang of grief.

No wonder I hate defrosting chest freezers–too many memories.

I told Eric he can do the next “freezer defrost” in 2032. And I will make him use one of those little, tiny eyeglass-repair kit screwdrivers to chip off the ice.

Serves him right for taking away my sweet Cryogenic Fingernail Bowl Gouge.