I cannot remember where my mom told me to put it, because I do not remember it ever hanging around my neck on a string like I saw on other kids. I carried a backpack, so there could have been a pocket perfect for it. After all those years I am sure there was a place for my latchkey because I was a latchkey kid growing up.
I had to have been about 10-years-old when I got my first house key. My oldest sister moved out when she was barely 18 and my next older sister was married at 20. That left my two brothers and me to come home after school to a house void of adult supervision. We grabbed snacks and probably fought for the best seat in the living room just to watch Bugs Bunny, Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch until my mom came home from work, followed by my dad about an hour later.
Having a house key in my possession was the most important piece of hardware in my pocket. I was (and still am) conscientious about knowing where my house key is since even in the summer break from school, my parents worked and the three of us had free reign in the neighborhood, but the last one out of the house had to lock up. Being the youngest one, my brothers were a bit more social than I was and I was known to be around the house more. Until that one day…
I recall seeing a friend from school ride by my house on her bike with her little siblings. I ran out the door to talk to her and she invited me to ride bikes with them. So in my excitement, I locked the door, grabbed my bike and wheeled off with them. I think the bike ride was a short jaunt around the block and then she had to ride with her family back home. We parted ways at the corner and I coasted down the hill and turned up my driveway to face angry looking brothers. They didn’t have their key and didn’t know where I was and they couldn’t get in the house. I reached for my key in my pocket and to my shock, it was not there. In my haste and excitement to ride bikes with a school friend I wouldn’t normally see until September when school began, I left my house key on the table. We tried to break into the bathroom window, but for some reason we couldn’t get in. As for my big brother, he lit in to me and made me cry. He commanded me to ride my bike to our sister’s apartment to see if she could let us in the house with her key.
I sobbed the whole way to my sister’s apartment. She didn’t live far, but for 10-year-old legs peddling down some very busy streets, it was scary. I had to pass a house with the biggest, meanest Dobermin Pinscher I had ever seen. Even though it was behind a chain-link fence, it had this deep growl and ferocious bark that made me cry even more. By the time I got to my sister’s front door to ring the bell, I was into the hard cry to where she could barely understand what I was saying. My sister let me in her apartment, gave me some lemonade and calmed me down enough to tell her what happened. She was able to stuff my little Huffy bike into her trunk, strapped my little baby niece in a car seat and drove me home. I don’t remember if my brothers were still hanging around the house by the time we drove in the driveway, but since that day, I have done my best to never be locked out again.
Since my mother passed away last year, each time I stuck my key into the lock to open the door, I felt like that 10-year-old girl again. Walking into a house without adult supervision but this time neither mom nor dad would be coming home after a hard days’ work. Being in a house that used to feel like home is like sitting in the skeleton framework of a whale in a museum. Cold, lonely and surreal.
It is with a heavy heart that I locked the door to the house for the last time. Thursday, I will sign off on the house and give the keys to a new owner. Afterward, I could drive to my sister’s house and ring her bell in the midst of a hard cry. She would let me in and understand the jumbled words this time because she understands the pain of selling the family home. It gives me some peace to know a new owner will breathe life into each room that we worked hard to empty.
Thank you God for the big white house with black shutters and the memories that were made there. Please bless the new owner and the lives that will make new memories.
Matthew 16:19 (NIV)
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”