Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keys to my Past

What was your favorite Christmas gift this year? (Okay, technically LAST year)  One of my favorites was this old snuff jar:

"What?!  A snuff jar?!" you say?  Yeah...well, my favorite part was what it was filled with...dozens of really awesome old keys.  The jar belonged to my great Grandma Brandt, and it was where she kept her keys.

Years ago I snapped this photo at the Minnesota State Fair of a wall that was covered with old keys:

I just love the texture and patterns in all of the keys, and wondering where they all came from.  I love the various colors they've taken on and bled onto the wood as they endure harsh Minnesota winters.  I printed the close-up photo and had it hanging in my cubicle for years.

Now that I freelance from home, and don't have to worry about my valuables being swiped from my desk (like my wedding ring was...but that's a whole other sad story), I thought I'd make my own real wall of keys.  That was a year or two ago, and I've been searching for cool old keys at garage sales ever since.  So far I have found a whopping two keys, for $1 each.  At this rate it would take me FOR-E-VER.

Well, when my mom caught word that I was keeping my eye out for keys, she remembered that they had a whole jar of them stored away somewhere from my Dad's Grandma, and they gave them to me alongside other fun Christmas gifts!

...And here they are (most of them) on display in my studio, along with my shiny letter "G" and my collection of fortune cookie fortunes that are tucked under the plastic corner guard. 

Keys are important.  You'll know that all too well if you've experienced the panic that sets in when you realize you've locked yourself out of your car or your house.  They protect the things that are of value to you.  They are a symbol of adulthood.  I so clearly remember being in high school when it was glaringly obvious who just got their driver's license because of the huge, clanking ring of keys they had swinging from their pocket for the world to see. They are symbols of independence.  Your first car.  Your first apartment.  Yours and only yours because you have the key.  They are a symbol of trust in whomever you may share them with.

I see bins and bins of old keys at the Junk Bonanza with my mom each year, yet I've never purchased any there.  Sure, I could have bought this whole wall from one antique seller, just for the look.  But now I have my own collection that has a lot more meaning behind it.  (Thanks Mom & Dad!)

There are big keys and teeny tiny little keys.  Black keys and silver keys and brass keys.  Every one has a different design and unlocks some unknown object or door from my  past. I look at the keys that are slightly twisted and distorted and wonder what that one got stuck in.  I left the little strings tied on some of the keys because that's the way Great Grandma had them.  I wonder what doors they unlocked, what clocks they wound up, what secrets they kept, and what treasures they may have secured...yet I find it delightfully ironic that in the end, the objects they unlocked are probably long gone, and the keys themselves are the treasures!

On a related note, here's a fun idea I came across on Pinterest via "Young House Love"...
A little shadow box displaying the keys to the places you've lived.  Makes me wish I had kept copies of my old keys!  After all, modern keys may look totally boring to me now, but who great grand kids may unlock everything with fingerprint recognition and may find my keys to be fascinating relics!

1 comment:

  1. Those old keys of Grandma's couldn't have gotten a better home. Thank YOU Gretchen.




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