The keys to

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 26, 2011 8:24 PM

I find keys fascinating. They have such incredible shapes, mostly round and inviting at the top and then jagged and craggy toward the ends. They’re sort of like people that way. We all start out as rolly babies, squirming and soft, full of rounded angles and curves, and then we become adults. Our heads stay round but everything else becomes sharp edges, especially our personalities. I blame curiosity. If we weren’t hopelessly curious about everything from why the sky is blue to how come Brussel sprouts make your mouth squinch up to if there’s a heaven, we wouldn’t find things out and we could stay hopelessly naïve and round. In other words, not keyed in.

In so many ways, the key to how we live can be found in the keys we carry. Kevin and I have a key rack in the shape of a motorcycle mounted just outside the garage door.  It has five hooks on it, all holding single keys on appropriate key chains. There is one for the car, one for the truck, one for the motorcycle; one with the house key and one with the key to Kevin’s studio. We don’t have a lot of locked up ideals in our lives.

Single keys work to lock something up or to unlock something else. But they are really the keys to release. Keys to the city give the recipient special access to something entirely nebulous but it sure sounds important. The keys to success seemingly provide a solution to what had otherwise seemed unattainable. I think I’ve had my hands on those keys a time or two. Sometimes they’ve fit into the keyhole; sometimes not.

The keys to my heart were first given away a long time ago, when I was in high school. I was a junior and his name was Jeff Peterson. He played football; I don’t remember what position. He had been dating a friend of mine but they broke up right around the time I broke up with my boyfriend. We commiserated, spending countless afternoons after school, hanging around the lockers. Before I knew it we were dating, and I was hopelessly in love. I don’t remember when but somehow I got the keys back and locked up my heart again until Tim, my first husband. I picked him up hitchhiking, and fell stupidly in love, but I was 18. What did I know about love? By the time I took those keys back, I was in my early 30s, though if I’m being honest, I took them back much earlier than that.

Then came my favorite husband, my beloved Kevin. I gave him the keys and I don’t want them back.

Keys, like just about everything else in history, probably originated in Egypt. Clay tablets from ancient Babylonia, some 4000 years ago, depict key-like structures, probably made of wood or stone. Then the Greeks stepped in and began using keys to lock and unlock temples, with women usually carrying large, angular bronze keys on one shoulder. Homer even speaks of the key to Odysseus’s storeroom in his literary masterpiece The Odyssey. Roman keys were technically more proficient, with finesse and elegance, becoming status symbols for those who had something to protect. They also invented the finger key, worn and used by women to lock and unlock jewelry boxes. During the 6th thru 9th centuries, Merovingian keys and Carolingian keys, shaped like religious symbols were in vogue. Keys have been a symbol of power in the United States since William Penn, the English real estate entrepreneur and eventual founder of Pennsylvania, arrived in Delaware in 1682. By this time and to this day, keys were made of various forms of metal.

There are master keys, control keys, transponder keys, double-sided and four-sided keys, paracentric keys, internal cut, Abloy, Dimple, Skeleton, Tubular and Zeiss keys, DO NOT DUPLICATE keys, restricted keys, magnetic keys and Alicia Keys. There’s also the very popular keycard, the keyboard, and the Francis Scott Key key used in a West Wing episode.

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Here’s the thing about keys, they can often be used to keep people out and lock things up. But I like to think they also open doors and unlock new possibilities. Step inside and find what you may. Perhaps a treasure, perhaps just another door, and always a way forward. That’s the key to my future. What’s the key to yours?

Comments (1) -

7/27/2011 5:57:11 PM #

Facinating!! I'll never look at a key quite the same way again.

mom United States

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