IF, and I stress ‘IF’!, …there is anything more magical than a key, it is only an old, old, key! A key represents ‘entry’, a silent access to unknown places and hidden, secreted areas and things. It’s a modern day symbol of what we seem to have less and less of…magical, barred, locked mystery.
**(Rough sample from my upcoming book)
Without understanding why, I was absolutely enchanted about keys as a child. All types. Door keys, padlocks, skeletons, any type and the older the better. I collected them and eventually had thousands of thousands arranged by size, type and for some still unknown reason, ….colour!
I can’t remember when this love for keys first began but do know my Aunt Edna played an either conscious or sly role by bringing me hundreds of them during her weekly Sunday Crumb-cake visits. And with the hundreds of keys appeared the oddest, most worn-out and seemingly useless tools imaginable. Edna was actually ‘Great Aunt Edna’, tho’ that term was verboten in our house. She worked in an ancient steel factory of some variety* that still used strong, heavy manual tools meant to be used by even strong hands with fists like pa00bene and primitively-instructed crafts-people. It was a crazy assortment of hammers, and large pounding devices made from heavy steel or iron, some brass, and 10lb screwdrivers, boring and punching devices, and wrenches that only steroid-pumping werewolves could lift – leftovers, I’d thought, from some hidden hideout Industrial Age machine shop that managed to stay hidden and untouched by modern-day New York.
In part the great attraction, the utter drug-inducing fascination with keys—I could play with them for hours, lost in some kids’ time warp of fun and discovery, was when I began to be able to open things with them by learning how to file the teeth. Mom was not amused after my proudly demonstrating how I’d altered a key to could open our front door.
Opening a lock was Nirvana. It made me Houdini. I imagined myself being able to enter banks, or, better yet all the locked doors in all the factories which populated my neighborhood. A lock symbolized denial. An end. “You are not allowed in”. A key was its violation, its antithesis. Keys to a 9yr old were power. “Oh contraire, I most certainly am allowed in….”. And I reveled in their heft and solidity.
After not too long a time, my highly imaginative mother cleaned out half of a large linen closet and converted it into my lab. A large wooden shelf became my Edison Lab-styled worktable. I had a small lamp, files, small and large screwdrivers….and after a while word had spread that the goofy kid in 5C loved fooling around with old useless watches and radios. Mom then put a limit on what was allowed in the lab. I decided to specialize and focused on watches (so small, so tantalizing complex and mysterious, how and where were all those small, perfectly enmeshed pieces made?) some old radios…and locks. Ah….Locks! These were alive. They were only dead if you couldn’t open them. Locks spoke to me of mechanical genius from ages past, and of their seemingly obvious craft, the outside, versus the cunningly secret world of the interior….
…..That’s it for now. More soon….or, …in the book!