Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ode to a Key Ring

For over two decades, you have remained steadfastly by my side. You were witness to the day my parents first entrusted me with independent access to my childhood home. You endured my ill-advised carabiner / belt-loop phase despite the fact that it placed you in unnerving proximity with my braided leather belt and stonewashed jeans. You swallowed your pride when I felt the need to affix you to a lanyard and leave the slack dangling from my back pocket (as if I was expecting the call about a head-coaching position at any moment).

You sat atop the dresser of my childhood bedroom as I constantly reinvented my identity via the artwork on my wall. You heard my endless hours on the guitar attempting to accurately recreate a riff to the point I did not have to prompt others to identify it. There are even a few occasions when you slipped from my pocket necessitating a return trip to a friend’s house which led to a conversation that would never have occurred otherwise.

You wordlessly bore the shame of my early automobile purchases. When I willingly gave money to someone in exchange for a white Chevrolet Cavalier (with optional Rally Sport fun package) you held your tongue. When I optimistically traded that car for a used Pontiac Grand Am, you allowed me to degrade you with the ignition key.  

Perhaps most importantly, you were being nervously fidgeted in my hands the first time I spoke to the woman who would later become my wife. You had a front row seat for the moment that she agreed to marry me and when we nervously slipped on the key to our first apartment. You sat on the table at the closing of our home anxiously awaiting the ceremonial moment we were passed the keys.

You laid upon a rolling hospital table the moment I met my son and became a father. You were dropped multiple times in our panic to rush that same child to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night when he could not catch his breath. I dropped you as I attempted to situate my daughter for her first car ride and often misplaced you in the sleep-deprived stupor parenthood bestows.

Currently, you find yourself festooned by evidence of my career (USB flash drives), my low sales resistance (I’m talking to you Books-A-Million “Millionaire’s Club” key-tag), and my improving taste in automotive manufacturers (I'll see you in Hell Pontiac). I even leave the unused gym membership tags just because I like making a show of moving them for the cashier at Kroger to scan my loyalty card.

If your longevity continues, you will likely bear witness to the day I am forced to say goodbye to my Mom and Dad. You will be there when each of my children start Kindergarten and eventually experience heartbreak. Someday you will become a bargaining chip when they insist they are old enough to drive somewhere by themselves. You will provide me a tactile distraction when I am faced with the prospect of watching them acquire and adorn their own key rings and all of the emotional implications that come with such a seemingly pedestrian act.   

I am ashamed to admit that there were times I was tempted to trade you in. Lured by the promise of magnetic quick-release fasteners and color-coded key tabs I tried newer models but always found myself crawling back to the tried-and-true circular cotter. I have even come to appreciate the resistance to change inherent to your design. I am given multiple chances to rethink whether an item is “ring-worthy” as I attempt to pry your metal bands apart with my thumbnail. Even the existing residents seem to protest once a new addition is at the halfway mark of its journey and I have to force them down to make room.   

Most miraculous of all, you always seem to contain one unidentifiable key. Is it to the old apartment and I just never removed it? Did my parents change locks and I kept a copy of the replacement and its predecessor? Am I, in fact, a highly-trained government assassin suffering from amnesia who will one day discover the key opens a safety deposit box in Prague filled with passports, paper currency, and intrigue?

Regardless, I know that you will be there for me. Providing both a practical service and a shamelessly-exploitable metaphor for the cyclical nature of human existence.

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