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Consider This

By LC Van Savage


Do you save keys? I do too. They languish, huddled sadly in a junk drawer with no ID; orphans without credentials, cast-offs.

And yet I can't throw them away. I look at them and wonder about their pasts, and if keys have nothing else, at least they have pasts. If I throw them out, will I be throwing out my own history? Yes.

Some of those old keys opened the front doors of homes in which my good husband "Mongo" and I lived, and those memories are sweet, those days of early marriage before children, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, parakeets, rats, mice, gerbils, and fish.

Other keys are for old bike locks that have long gone to bike firmament, and the memory of our riding about town with our sons comes back, and it's good. Our boys, however, became mortified at being seen riding bikes with their parents, and so out of consideration for the tenderness of their adolescent sensitivities, we stopped. I miss that. Actually I miss them, even though we see them often. But it's different now.

I have a collection of antique keys too, and they're beautiful. They are old, scrolled and carved. Pretty. Nice to gaze at in the palm of the hand. Nowadays, keys are utilitarian, plain, all the same, without personality or intrigue. And some are even plastic cards and eventually they'll be our own eyeballs. Disappointing. Hard to hold an eyeball in your hand and admire its handiwork and wonder about its history.

Some of my antique keys wound long-gone grandfather and grandmother clocks, some opened huge old doors, and some locked liquor cabinets from a thirsty staff who enjoyed the occasional wee nip to help them to get through the demeaning drudgery of cleaning up other people's messes.

Two of those old, ornate keys of mine hung perpetually 'round the wrinkled necks of a couple of psycho-balmy old relatives of mine. I remember asking them what it was they had locked they never let anyone see, and why did they have to wear those keys all the time, even in the bathtub. The response was always the same: "Just wouldn't you love to know, dearie, oh, wouldn't you just. Hahahahahahaha!" The laugh cackled and was evil. Those old screwballs saw too many Bela Lugosi movies. But yeah, they were right, I sure would have loved to know. After those oldsters finally died, I waited and waited to hear what those keys fit in their homes, what glorious secrets were discovered. A trunk full of enormous, glittering jewels? Millions of dollars worth of bearer bonds? Stacks of bills of very large denomination? Thick, tangled golden jewel-studded chains? Great, snarled balls of carelessly tossed tiaras? Nope. No one could find a single thing in the homes of those fascinating but loony tunes relatives of mine that could accommodate those keys, so it was concluded they wore them to make everyone as crazy as they. It worked.

A favorite key looks up at me. I called it "the helpful key." My stepmother would tape a folded note to our locked back door stating that, "the key is in the white cup on the shelf in the shed," quite helpful to anyone wishing to rob us.

How could I throw away those old keys? I can't. There are small keys in that collection too, the tiniest of which locked away my dearest secrets; my diary keys. I don't have the diaries any longer, because I had an obnoxious pita brother who kept stealing them and reading them aloud to all his obnoxious pita friends. I have since been plotting a gruesome revenge. Alas, those old, genuine imitation leather diaries are long gone and I regret that. I'd like to read them now to see if I've matured or if my opinions and thoughts have changed. Likely not. But I still have the keys and they'll be staying to remind me..

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Reader Comments

Name: Melinda Cohenour Email:
Comment: Aha! A kindred spirit. I, too, have a collection of old keys -- or should I say, collectionS of old keys. Key rings long since relegated to the drawer or placed in a pouch to ensure no lock will, inadvertently, remain unlocked in the absence of its partner. Ofttimes I've pondered ways in which to "organize" this collection -- a way to keep my wits and savor those memories that waft into my brain as I encounter one of these long-lost keyrings. Perhaps I should label each key? Place the intact rings into an ornate, decorative arrangement -- under glass, on velvet. Or, more sensibly, obtain a simple metallic keybox and laboriously mount each key separately with a label that proclaims its illustrious past. Of course, none of these steps has been taken. The keyrings still languish in their private little domain -- awaiting the next "finding" when they can, once again, give up their ghosts.



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