Common Read Experience

Our Objects and Their Stories

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The Keychain

Omnia Omnibus Ubique—All Things for All People, Everywhere – Harrod’s Store Motto

About two years ago, my husband misplaced my keys.  We determined, unfortunately for him, that he was the culprit by an in-depth re-creation of the actions leading to the discovery that they were missing.  My  reaction to the loss was curious. I was not really that upset about the car keys. We had the “valet” keys that would start the car, and surely I could make do without the little button to unlock the vehicle from a distance.  We rarely locked the house, so that wasn’t a big deal, and in reality I probably didn’t really need the emergency key to my mother’s apartment.  And the grocery store, drugstore, pet food shop and sporting goods store could certainly look me up in their computer if I couldn’t produce their respective little tags. 

What was upsetting about the missing keys was the loss of the keychain itself.  I was simply devastated.  My poor husband couldn’t understand what the problem was.  He found spare keys for me to use and put them on a new keychain.  Nothing helped.  I was both sad and angry at my loss.  And would bring up the loss frequently, much to his chagrin. 

The keychain itself was not spectacular. It wasn’t encrusted with gems, or even my initials.  It wasn’t even that rare: my sister and mother both used identical ones.  What made it special was that it was a gift from my father.  He was a professor of education, and lived in England for months at a time, supervising American student teachers in English schools.  The keychain was purchased when I was an early teen, as a gift on one return home. Small, silver, and easy to use, it had “Harrods” engraved on the side.  The keychain was first employed to hold our house key: we were latch key children, arriving home from school before Mom and Dad were there.  It lived in our backpacks, getting pulled out at 3:15pm to let us in the kitchen door.  It held dorm keys when I was in college. Later, it proudly held my first car and first apartment key.  When we were married, another car key was added, and multiple moves over the early years of our marriage saw many apartment keys come and go.  Eventually, car keys got too big and instead of finding a new keychain, I simply removed the Honda key, figuring that I really didn’t drive it that often so it was okay to jettison it. 

Late last spring, my daughter strolled into the kitchen, keys dangling from her fingers, asking, “Why was this in the bag with the dog leashes?”  She had found my keychain. I almost cried, and my husband probably did too.  I grabbed them out of her hand, and just held them. They had been in the house all along, in a place we would never have thought of checking.  Dad has been gone for a while now, and coincidentally so has Harrods, and I am struck by how all three of “his girls” still use the keychain.  It is a constant reminder of his presence in our lives, even though he is not longer with us. I will always use my keychain.

Kristin L. Strohmeyer
Reference and Outreach Librarian