Random Thoughts

My First Keys

... the thrill of ownership ...

by Ann Robbins Talbot

My Roller Skate Key

I sit on the front stairs with one skate on, fastened to my old brown oxfords. It takes so much effort that I
need to rest between skates. The second skate is harder to put on because I get no leverage from the wheels of
the first skate. I shove the toe of my shoe into the clamps of the heavy skate making sure my heel and the end
of the skate are even. Then I take my skate key and tighten the clamps, good and tight. Finally I buckle the
strap around my ankle, wiggling it to be sure it is firm.

But the hard work has only begun. Now I have to stand up, four small wheels under each foot. Using the stairs as
leverage I sort of crawl my way up the wall to a standing position. Before I move, I reach down to my key and
place the attached brown string over my head like a precious necklace. The first key I have ever owned is my
skate key – made of metal shaped around holes that match the construction of my skates.

The next obstacle is the hill in front of my house – perfect for coasting in the snow but dangerous for roller
skating. To get to level ground I walk gingerly down the grass strip between the sidewalk and curbstone.
Arriving at the bottom of the hill I cross the street and am ready to skate around the block. My parents can
chart my route by the sound of metal wheels on cement divided every few feet by a sidewalk crack. On the way I
meet friends who put on their skates and accompany me skating round and round until we are called in for
mealtime. Then I unbuckle and loosen the clamps with my skate key, a really easy operation. After a quick squirt
of our trusty oil can just like the Tin Man’s, I hang my skates and key on a peg in the cellar stairway, ready
for the next outing.

The Key to My Bicycle Lock

When you get to be a fifth grader, everyone rides bikes to school. We have lunch at home so a bike ride is
really handy. However our family is not in a position to buy me a Schwinn, the bike of choice in 1944. Materials
are expensive because this is wartime.

My fourteen-year-old stepbrother John decides to build me a bike. He gets three ancient bicycles from heaven-
knows-where and sets to work. He takes the best of the frames, the handlebars, the wheels, the chains and the
brakes. He paints the frame blue with white stripes using tape to mask the colors. He fastens wide silver
mudguards over both the front and the back wheels. A wire basket fits on the handlebars to carry books. A kick
stand is attached. By the time he finishes, I have a great looking bicycle that outweighs any other bike in
town. It is huge, but it works.

I am not sure that anyone else would like to have my bike, but I love it. Riding up our hill, I can feel my leg
muscles getting a workout adding to my field hockey abilities. My school has a bike room where all the bikes are
stored safe from the weather. We ride to the door and walk our bikes down a wooden ramp to the cellar of the
ancient building. Many of the bikes look similar, but mine is a standout. Nevertheless my mother buys me a lock
for my bike. It looks like a ten-inch-long padlock that fits through the spokes of a wheel. Again I put the
string attached to the key over my head like a precious necklace. For five years I ride that bike – a true

April 4, 2014                                        

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