Why do you like refrigerator magnets? The story of Fiorenza Gattavara.
Collecting objects is an almost obsolete hobby, but in every house, there is something that is still collected automatically and collaboratively: fridge magnets. No house is immune to this reality; in all of them there is at least one magnet attached to the refrigerator. There are also the most obsessive people who have carried out this practice –which over the years has become a family custom that is about to become a tradition—to the extreme and their addiction has led them to think about buying a second fridge to continue sticking the magnets that no longer fit in the first one.
I particularly don't have that kind of cumulative obsession, or at least not anymore. Years ago, I traveled to Lima with a friend and her parents for five days and, for various reasons, I was unable to find a magnet that I liked 100 percent. When I returned to my city a friend told me that he would go to Lima that summer and, without thinking twice, I asked him to please bring me a magnet for my refrigerator. He immediately said yes, but then he asked me why. I told him that even though I had looked for a magnet that reminded me of the Peruvian capital, I had not found the right one. I went around several times trying to explain to him how important this was to me, but after several unsuccessful attempts, I realized that it was not worth having a magnet to remind me of a place if I hadn’t chosen it myself. What is memorable to me from one place may not be memorable to others because everyone lives their own experience in each place. After that request I realized how far I had come. It's one thing to buy magnets and look for one that meets certain requirements to have it as a souvenir, but it's quite another to become a magnet accumulator. After that conversation with my friend I decided to change the focus of the collection. It was no longer going to be more accumulating for the sake of accumulating, but the slogan of my obsession evolved to "less is more". I left behind quantity to focus fully on quality and on each trip, I continue to search hard for magnets that make me fall in love and remind me of my travels in a special way.
As a result of that experience I realized that any magnet is not worthy of being stuck on my fridge, it must be the right one so that each place is remembered as it deserves. Looking back, remembering the places I've traveled was the starting point for why I decided to collect magnets in my refrigerator. However, over time and as the collection has grown, I have realized that they mean much more than that and today they have become a temple that I worship and to which –to some extent—I pray, because yes, for me they are a source of pride. Seeing them displayed in a usual and simple space as the refrigerator, there quietly in the places I chose for them, sharing space with strangers who are then friends and companions in life, makes me feel happy and satisfied. It sounds crazy, perhaps unhinged, but I love them -let's be redundant- with madness. This has even led me to question whether my obsession with magnets is something to worry about or not. There are currently 67 magnets sharing space in my dull gray refrigerator. Each one of these souvenirs was chosen very carefully and must be unique and specific to the place where it belongs. However, a small part of my collection has been gifts brought to me by family and friends from their vacation, but those are in another category and arranged on one side of the refrigerator. In that sector also qualify the typical magnets with the calendar of the year and those with some food delivery phones.
To be on the front door of the refrigerator, the chosen magnet must fit an infinite list of qualifying adjectives that I and only I imposed: needs to be pretty, not too big or too small, very colorful, that it stands out among its peers but that it also matches them, that it also matches the gray background of the refrigerator, handmade, that it does not have many letters or very few, have to says the place where I bought it but at the same time can’t be the only thing that contains its image, and that hopefully in its essence it is a geometric figure, are some of the requirements. Although these requirements are not written anywhere, every time I travel somewhere, they automatically come to my mind as if it were the lyrics of a song that is playing on the radio.
Since there are many requirements that each of these pieces must fulfill to have the honor of being admitted to my temple of magnets, which has been adding members for eight years now, finding the right one to represent each place perfectly is not an easy task and can take time. And just what is most scarce in the holidays is time. That's right, during the holidays, the moment recognized worldwide as the perfect occasion to add a new member to the magnet collection, minutes and hours become valuable and are generally dedicated in greater proportion to knowing the place's safety pins, while the time destined to showcase magnets is minimal and must be done in the past.
Four years ago, I went on a trip to Argentina and Uruguay with three friends from the university. In one month of travel we visited ten different places, and we stayed an average of three days per location. We would arrive at a place, go through the safety pins and in the blink of an eye we would be on our way to the next destination. Time was scarce and there was no time to go shopping. In this last part, what we suffered the most was the other woman in the group and I who every time we passed outside a store we evaluated if it was worth entering that one or the one next to it. As there was no time to lose, after a week of traveling we were more than enthusiastic and had developed a kind of quick evaluation of each store just by analyzing its display case. When we stopped in front of the shop window, each of us would check if the items of interest were there. I remember that Gabriela was always looking for shoes, since it is said that Argentine leather is one of the most resistant in the world. For my part, I was focused on my obsession, which I kept secret from my fellow travelers: magnets. To hide it, I said that I was extremely interested in buying notebooks and pencils, which was not really a lie because pencils are undoubtedly my second collection and obsession.
In the three days that we were in each place, the opportunities to go shopping were very few, so to fulfill my mission of finding that perfect magnet I came up with a plan. Every time someone said that an ingredient was missing from the kitchen or that they felt like eating something, I offered to go shopping. So, when I was at the supermarket, the neighborhood grocery store, or even at the gas pump, I would move quickly and carefully look for the magnet section. Many times, I succeeded, but there is one I especially remember.
We were going to make spaghetti with tomato sauce, a typical travel menu, and the volunteer cook of the day said there was no grated cheese. Immediately and without thinking twice I offered to go out in search of the cheese. We had just arrived at that hostel, so we hadn't gone out to have a look. I still remember it as if it were yesterday, it was a hot Sunday morning in Buenos Aires when I went out to buy the missing ingredient. I hadn't walked more than three blocks looking for a shop or an open place and I found the famous San Telmo fair, which gathers the most diverse antiques.
Obviously, grated cheese took a back seat and I took advantage of the great opportunity that presented itself: to visit the fair that has been held every Sunday for 50 years in the Plaza Dorrego in the Argentine capital. You can find everything there. On that occasion I remember that I saw trunks, boxes, plates, boards, baskets, glass bottles, coasters, vinyls and many other things, although I was only interested in finding a magnet for my collection.
I spent twenty minutes walking between the fair stands until I reached one that caught my attention. The salesman was a gentleman in his mid-fifties who wore a hat to protect himself from the sun and was sitting behind the table where he displayed his magnets. There were several designs, all of them had in common to be current objects in their old version such as a television, a telephone, a car, a radio, and all of them had "Feria de San Telmo, Buenos Aires" written on the top in white, fine, cursive letters. You could see at first sight that they were handmade, because, although they all shared the same style, in the end none of them was the same as the other. I looked at them carefully and finally chose the telephone, which was made of a green-yellow metal. In the center it had a circle with the numbers one through nine written in black as on a clock, representing the wheel with which numbers were marked in the past, the one that was turned to the position of the number and then returned automatically to the beginning while waiting for another number to be marked.
Of all my collection, this magnet is the one I like the most, and not only because of its physical characteristics, but also because of the circumstances in which I found it. It makes me think that coincidences exist. Having gone out in search of grated cheese and having everything lined up in such a way that just a few blocks from my accommodation and with only a few hours in town, I found one of the city's historical must-haves, I find it incredible. ¡I think this fantastic place was looking for me!
And here is the main reason for my fascination with magnets: they are simple and extraordinary at the same time. They make me tele transport myself to unique places and moments in my life. Each one has a special meaning, it's like a postcard of each place, more like an image taken by my own mind, a moving video that I evoke much more often than I think, since every time I enter the kitchen and look at the refrigerator, I'm traveling.
An author of the story - Fiorenza Gattavara. Written exclusively for World Wide Gifts.