Sunday, October 19, 2014

Keys to the Past: The contemplative possibilites in objects

   I was rummaging around in a cupboard in my studio recently and came across an old steel box filled with my Grandfather's collection of keys.  He never threw one out!

  Back in the day, if you lost a key, you could often substitute another to open the lock, especially the old ones that used what they called "skeleton" keys.  I never had a key to my childhood home...didn't need one, the door was never locked!

   I smiled at the old lock with the word "stability" stamped on it.  After visiting the monastery in September, it made me think of the monks who take a vow of stability...staying in one place.  We, today, are not a very stable culture.  People move, on the average, every seven years.  I've put the heavy old lock on my end table where I sit and write each morning as a reminder of the need for some form of stability in our important it is for a peaceful soul.

   Some of the keys had paper tags which I found interesting.  This one must have been to a safe deposit box at the bank.  I wonder why it wasn't returned?  Keys, and the things they open, have all sorts of metaphorical possibilities.  And, as a dyed in the wool story teller, I could imagine a whole world this key represents.

  This mysterious one is for Room 14 on the 4th floor.  Who lived there?  My imagination was going at full tilt at this point.

    This final key interested me the most.  What did "Mother" keep in her small tin box?  Whose Mother was she?  My Grandfather's?  His Father's?  What did she have that was so precious that she needed to lock it away from prying eyes.  Was it what my Grandfather called "pin money"...the nickles and dimes that came from some little enterprise, like selling eggs, that would be used to buy the expensive steel pins she needed for her sewing projects?  Or was she saving for something special, something she wanted to keep secret?  A new hat perhaps?

   We all keep things locked away inside our heart's closet.  We guard the key diligently.  Somethings will never see the light of day...maybe that's a good thing in some cases.  These keys were all important to someone at one time.  They, and the secrets they protected, however, are long gone.  All that is left are the keys, the artifacts of a distant past, and we are left with much to wonder at.  I think I will mount some of these keys in a shadow box for future generations to puzzle over.  Like my Grandfather, I can't bear to throw them away!


Patricia Turner said...

Very good point, John. Today's generation are lacking that material connection to their past. Holding those keys was quite amazing. It was a real, physical connection.

Barb said...

Oh - never threw them away. They seem magical to me - a way to "unlock" your past.

Patricia Turner said...

I've been doing a lot of "unlocking" lately, exploring my genealogy and it has been a fascinating process.