In Memoriam: my keychain, 1997-2011



. . . okay, this is ridiculous, I know that, but I am in mourning.

In the summer of 1997, I worked on an Earthwatch project in South Shields, England, doing archaeological excavation on the Roman fort of Arbeia. While I was there, I purchased a keychain in a local shop: a little Roman shield, rectangular and curved, with wings and lightning bolts and a round central boss, painted red and gold. The keychain being rather on the cheap side, the paint began flaking off in short order, but that was okay; the decoration was stamped into the steel, so I just stripped off the remainder of the paint and kept it plain.

This has been My Keychain for, effectively, my entire life. I never bothered with a keychain before then, and I’ve never used another since; I am not the sort of person who keeps twelve tchotchkes strung on the ring. The whole packet right now consists only of house key, mail key, bike key, car key, and the shield.

Or it did, until tonight.

Tonight, when I pulled my keys from my jeans pocket, the ring at the top of the shield broke clean through.

For years, I’ve been worried that some day I would lose my keys — worried not because I’d be locked out of the house, but because the shield would be gone. This is better; I still have it. But my husband can vouch for the utterly tragic look on my face when I realized, standing in the front hall, that it had broken beyond repair.

What will I do?

I’ll keep the shield, of course. The scoring down the center of the lightning bolts and marking the feathers on the wings has nearly been worn off; the curve of the shield has almost been mashed flat. It was never meant to survive thirteen and a half years of constant use. It’s a relic of my first dig, though, and my first solo international trip, and my love of all things Roman; no way is it going in the trash. The real question is what I do about my keys. They’re still on a ring, with what’s left of the chain; the clasp on that is so fused, I may have to cut it off. But I don’t know what I’ll do for a keychain. Do I need one? Do I want one? Maybe I need a mourning period for the old one first. I have no idea what could possibly replace it in my affections.

Yes, I’m mourning my freaking keychain. So what. It was a dear old friend, and I’m sorry to see it go.

0 Responses to “In Memoriam: my keychain, 1997-2011”

  1. electricpaladin

    I totally get it. I go into mourning about random objects all the time. I’m still upset about the possibility that my car is, somehow, annoyed at me about the dents (of course, my car also has a secret name that I call her when I think I’m in danger or worried about being late – so possibly I am insane). I think I’ll feel similarly if my enameled Go Play keychain from my first GenCon ever dies.

  2. kurayami_hime

    JB Weld. Get thee to Home Depot (or do-it-yourself store of choice; Joann’s might be able to supply). Pozzo’s choker broke. It was either just before or during the show. One of the metal loops on one of the flowers came off. Ian, with the help of JB Weld, reattached it. The necklace is still going strong. I will send you a picture as proof.

    If the above doesn’t work, take time to mourn. can vouch for the attachments we have to certain tchotchkes; she nearly drove off the road when found my lost cheese charm and I shrieked with joy.

    If you do think of something you might like as a new key companion, let me know. I’m in a place where there are lots and lots and lots and LOTS of things to choose from.

    • Marie Brennan

      I think I will leave it unrepaired; I’ve been worried for ages now that I would lose the shield, and if I patch it, that becomes a concern again. Better to let it retire with grace. But I will have to think about what else I might want.

  3. dsmoen

    Sorry for your loss. I get it — sometimes it’s the little, daily things we feel the loss of more profoundly. In a weird way, losing my cat last year was harder than losing my first husband, but then the cat was the surviving daily reminder.

  4. kendokamel

    Aw, that stinks. I’m sorry to hear about it! (Glad to hear it broke while you had it, though, and not lost somewhere.)

    My recommendation (not going on personal experience at ALL, here *cough*) would be to put the shield in a place of honor among Things You Have Collected And Are Proud Of… and go on the hunt for a new keychain.

    When you’ve found one worthy of filling the roomy shoes of the shield, put your keys on that one. (Most keychains will come with their own rings.) That way, you don’t have to worry about the busted piece of the old one a) reminding you that it’s still there, and b) scratching you.

    • Marie Brennan

      I pulled off the busted piece last night; it was a separate clasp-ring hooked onto the main ring, so I still have something to actually hold my keys together.

  5. mrissa

    My sympathies. I have a beloved keychain from the ’90s too. Thankfully mine is metal, so it’ll take a bit longer to wear through, one hopes.

    • Marie Brennan

      This one is metal, too — even the ring. But fairly soft metal, it seems, as the shape of the breakage (and the gradual mashing flat) attests.

  6. kizmet_42

    I completely get this. I had the same keychain from my sophomore year in college (1979) until 2008, when I lost it. I still look for it. It was the best keychain ever, until my son made me a replacement.

    • Marie Brennan

      Wow — that’s a hell of a tenure for something so little, fragile, and lose-able.

      • kizmet_42

        It was a 6 inch brass key. Very heavy, very distinctive. I still miss it.

        My son got me a 6 inch long piece of hexagonal aluminum with a hole drilled across one end. Apparently it’s a martial arts weapon, but it’s great substitute keychain.

  7. rozezz

    yes, condolences. the pain will fade with time – except on those days when you’re struck with the deepness of it all

  8. diatryma

    That’s an important keychain. I’d stick it on my rock altar, if it were set up, but that’s what the rock altar is for: marking things that are important in some way.

  9. dynix

    I guess it wouldn’t go down too well if I suggested drilling a hole through it and putting it right back on the keyring? It’s what I’d do at any rate:)

    • Marie Brennan

      I think I prefer to let things (or at least this thing) die a natural death.

      My beloved green sweater that I’ve had since about 1991? That, I will put on life support for as long as I have to.

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