Grandma’s Keys
by Chelsea Rounsley

The days of sorting through her items, discussing the string of her life with strangers, and finally interring her in the earth pass in a brume, as they do. After it all ebbs, I am left with a tan-colored box and I am unsure how it got here. I open it anyway.

A deluge of iron keys pours onto my bed, clinking and clanking as they fall atop one another. There must be at least fifteen keys on my bed. Skeleton keys, I surmise, as I notice that they are all mismatching sizes and colors.

My grandma almost never threw anything away; I learned this while we rummaged through all her knickknacks. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how my grandma, who lived alone in the same place for over thirty years, would come to acquire so many keys. It would make sense if she had been one of those eccentric types you read about in children’s stories — the type who lived in a labyrinthine home teeming with a multitude of doors leading who knows where — but this wasn’t so. Grandma didn’t live in a labyrinth; she didn’t live anywhere anymore.

Still, there is something comforting about the keys, I think as I place them back into the tan box one-by-one. I don’t know their intended purposes or what they can help me find, but maybe I’m not meant to know. There is nothing deeply profound about them, but they are physicality. They tether grandma to me in a way that memories alone cannot. They can lead me to anywhere, and maybe that’s what she would want.

That is when I decide, with misty eyes and a gifted box of clinking metal, to start a key collection.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: A recent photo of me wearing one of my key necklaces!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I tend to write a lot about my grandmother’s passing, to the point where it almost seems more like a character trait than a plot device, but the pieces that are about her are among my favorites. It was almost a no-brainer to pick my key collection as the basis for this piece, as I love keys so much that friends and loved ones give them to me as gifts. This piece was heartfelt and lovely to create, and now my friends can finally understand the reasons behind my key collecting!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chelsea Rounsley is a Midwestern writer currently living in Chicago. Every piece she writes, be it prose or poetry, is a partial fairytale.