Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Friday, 18 January 2013

Locks and Keys

When I was growing up, my mother used to lose her keys constantly.  She would cry and say, “I’m such an idiot.”  My father was never very sympathetic about it.  One night, when I was around seven years old, my mother had a new gig directing a choir in town that was thirty minutes away from our house.  After dinner, she was getting ready to leave, but she could not find her keys.

"Drink me" plus keys
“I’m such a stupid idiot,” she said.

“You have to learn to put them back in one place,” my father said.

“Please can I borrow your keys?” she begged him.

“No,” he said.  “You have to learn to keep them in one place.” 

My mother search the house some more.  Soon she was frantic, pulling out drawers and sliding books and other objects off of tables.
“Please!” she said to my father.  “I’m going to be late.”

“You have to learn to keep them in one place.”

“My mother started crying.  In my family, the women, they don’t cry softly.  They wail.  And the wailing is contagious. Once my mother started wailing, my sister would join in.  That night, my mother and my sister wailed on one side of the living room while my dad stood across from them, shaking his head.  I sat a bit off to the side.  I did not contract the wailing until later in life. That evening, I did not wail because I did not want my dad to think I was a stupid idiot.  Instead I clenched my jaw and bit my lip and scrunched up my face.  My mother and my sister were short and tiny, tinier than me even though I was the youngest.  They made up one team.  The Tiny Wailers.  My dad was the other team, the Big Tall Mean Man.  I was too large and too tall to be part of the Tiny Wailers’ Team.  But I wasn’t quite big enough to be part of the Big Tall Mean Man team.  Plus I didn’t think that my dad was that mean.  Not always. 
A couple of weeks ago, I started working at a Montessori school.  I speak French to the three to six year old children while they take activities off of wooden shelve and “do their work.”  One of their jobs is called “Locks and Keys.”  There are three small padlocks and three small keys of three different sizes.  All the locks are closed when the children take them out.  The children have to match the keys with the locks and unlock them.  Then they can link the locks and the keys in the chain and then unlock them again.  They can do this for as long as they want.  They have to be careful not to drop the keys on the floor.  When they are done, they have to put the locks back where they found them.  In one place.

Locks and Keys, for the Montessori Children

Next to the three to six year old class, the toddlers take things off of shelves and they do their work.  Most of them are less than two years old.  They are terrible at putting things back in one place.  And they are too small to fit tiny keys into tiny locks.  It would be a choking hazard.  My first day on the job, the toddler teacher had a car problem, so I got to hang out with the almost two-year-olds.  They were very upset that their mothers were not there.  One of them cried so hard he threw up.

“Mama, Mama,” he wailed all morning.  Just like in my family, the wailing was contagious.  Once one child started, another joined in.  Soon there were five almost-two-year olds wailing at the top of their lungs.  I was not Mama and so there was nothing I could do.  There was wailing all morning.  At lunch time, my co-worker gave me the keys to her car where she’d forgotten her tea.  Now her head was pounding from the wailing and the caffeine withdrawal.  But the tea could not cure the Mommy Withdrawal.  Except for naptime, the children continued to scream and cry and wail all day long.
At 5 PM, I ran out the door to catch my bus.  I would have to re-evaluate the effectiveness of the withdrawal method. There was no way I could manage a two-year-old person for an entire year.  A couple of stops later, I saw that my co-worker had left a message on my phone.  I still had the keys to her car.  They were in my pocket.  I walked back and another co-worker drove me home.  As the days go by, I am growing to really like my co-workers. 

But that night I fell asleep to sound of children wailing.  And it has been a bad couple of weeks for keys.  I can’t find one of the keys to the yoga studio that I’m not teaching at much anymore.  I have the key to the door at the bottom of the stairs, but the not the top.  Or vice versa. 
Part two and a half of the bad keys phase:  On Tuesday at 6:50 a.m., I radiated through the house getting ready to leave for work.  This jobs entails waking up around 4:15 for a 4:40ish start to yoga practice.  I leave the house around seven o’clock.  As fate would have it, I don't find it that difficult.  It seems that I was made to wake up early.  Although by Friday, the truck of fatigue starts to hit me, most mornings I am obnoxiously cheerful. The Boatman often makes fun of me as he drools on his pillow.

“Bye babe, I love you,” I yelled on Tuesday morning as I grabbed my keys.  “I love you!” I repeated.
“Bye, love you” he mumbled. 

At 11:30, we took the children outside for playtime.  That’s when I usually peak at my cell phone for the time and for text messages.   Four missed calls from the Boatman.  “Did I have his keys?” he’d asked.  He’d looked everywhere.  His dad had to drive him to work.  I looked in my pocket.  I had two sets of keys.
Every time something happens with my keys, I remember that night in the living room.  My mother and my sister wailing on one side and my father on the other.  In the end, my father relented and lent my mother her keys.  But first he tied them to a frying pan with a piece of string. 

I immediately called the Boatman’s keys, as the bigger kids slid down the hills and the little kids wailed at my feet, calling for their mothers.
“I’m so sorry babe,” I said to his voice mail.  “I’ll pick you up from work.”  Probably he would never talk to me again.

I texted him with profuse apologies and the promise to pick him up for work.
It’s okay, babe, he wrote back.  I can get a ride home. 

And that was all.  No frying pans.  No wailing. And when you pick the children up and point at the sky where the moon is supposed to be, sometimes they stop screaming.  

The End.

This post was supposed to have an Alice in Wonderland reference, but it got cut.  I love Alice in Wonderland. When Alice in Wonderland gets to the bottom of the rabbit hole, she finds herself in a curious corridor full of locked doors.  She wants to go through a tiny door behind a curtain that leads to a beautiful garden.  On a glass table in the curious hallway, she finds a key. The key opens the tiny door to the garden, but Alice is too big to fit through.  She closes the door and goes back to the table where but the door is so tiny that she cannot fit through.  She is way too big.  Back at the glass table she finds a bottle labelled “Drink me.”  Maybe she was thinking, “What the hell, it’s wonderland.” In any case, whatever was in the bottle made her shrink so that she could fit through the door to the garden.  Too bad she’d left the key on the glass table and the door was locked.  Now she was back where she started, but smaller.  So she starts to cry a little before seeing a cake that says “EAT ME” and eating it.  Then she grows to nine feet tall and she can reach the key again, but the door is nine feet below.  So she starts to cry a whole bunch and her tears make an ocean that all of the animals swim in.  I thought that this was interesting.  Being the wrong size to fit through the door and/or not being able to find your keys. Plus eating and drinking things to solve your problems.  I like that part. Interesting.  Curious.  

End of abridged section.

Alice looks at door behind curtain.
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I Let Go, self-help book by Erica J. Schmidt

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  1. Good story. I love the happy ending. And the addendum.

  2. Thanks Carol! I'm really enjoying your book! Almost done. Happy Sunday, Erica.

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