Mark and I were newlyweds the morning we packed up the tiny apartment where we’d been “living in sin,” as one relative enjoyed addressing his mail to us. Mark finished loading the car while I lugged out the last bag of trash. Propped on the side of the communal dumpster was a little heart-shaped key rack. I figured someone started to throw it away, but thought better of it and hoped it might find a new home. It wasn’t my style (too country), and I’ve never been a “dumpster diver.” But I was already feeling sentimental that day, so I impulsively grabbed it and took it with me to the car. I showed it to Mark, who was indifferent to it, and we drove off.
I remember hanging the key rack later that afternoon in our new apartment. I made fun of how Mark swung the hammer, and I wrested it from him and did it myself. (It’s good to get that first fight out of the way quickly, kids.)
I remember where Mark hung the key rack when we bought our first “real” house a couple of years later (he was much better with the hammer by then). And I remember where it hung in the house we bought three years after that…the one I begged and begged and begged him to buy…the same one where I rolled over in bed the first night, six-months pregnant with our second son, and whispered, “You were right. I hate it. Let’s move.”
And now the “dumpster rack” has hung in this spot for the past fifteen years, in home number five.
For twenty-one years in all, each time we’ve grabbed our keys, and each time we’ve put them back, we’ve brushed this key rack. When we left at 5:45 am in labor with our first born. When we returned two days later with a tiny human we weren’t sure what to do with. At the eager start of every family vacation, and at every ripe and exhausted homecoming. Every stupid, storming-out fight, and every apologetic return. I actually took the time to work it out on a calculator. Conservatively, we’ve used this key rack 30,660 times. Probably far more.
We’ve finally lived in one place long enough to justify a kitchen remodel, and today I considered tossing this relic and replacing it with something nicer. But I know in my heart I can’t do it.
At the end of August (I can’t bring myself to count the days), we’ll grab the keys to bring our oldest son to college for the first time. A few days later we’ll come home and hang them up again, feeling a bit like everything has changed, I bet. But nothing changes, really. We’ll keep hanging up this heart, every place we go.
It’s not expensive, or stylish, and it certainly isn’t well-bred. But it’s dependable. Constant. Necessary, even.
It works. It’s us. It’s love.
This is a guest post written by Kara Russell. Kara is a working mom of two teenage boys, one of whom will be heading off to college in a few weeks. She’s been an adjunct member of the English department at CCSU for over 20 years, and is also employed part-time as the youth director at Church of Christ, Congregational in Newington. In her spare time, she serves on the board of directors for Family Promise of Central Connecticut, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless families with young children remain intact and establish sustainable self-sufficiency.