Tougher Than You Think

While I was out and about today two separate people remarked on how beautiful my key ring is. It does regularly get that kind of attention, because it’s a little unusual.

Back in 1990 I divorced, moved back to Middle Tennessee, and got a job in the corporate office of a company I’d done good work for over the previous three or four years. It was located in a small town near here, and there was (ahem) a little bit of sour grapes related to the fact that I got the job and not one of the four younger-than-me local women who were then working in the office.

But one soldiers on, yeah? One does because one needs the job and has a child to feed and some time to spend in one’s head, getting clear after a divorce.

A few months later, after I’d returned from lunch and laid my car keys on the corner of my desk—where I always put them; because you know I am a creature of habit, and even now have a place to put keys—those keys just up and disappeared. They disappeared right as I needed to begin my thirty-five–minute commute back to the town I lived in to pick up my six-year-old from school daycare. During the flurry of searching EVERYWHERE for the keys, plus calling a friend to pick up my son and calling the school to let them know that and later asking the friend to keep my son overnight because the keys simply. did. not. turn. up (not even months later after my desk was moved out of the cubicles into an office) and calling my ex-husband to Fedex the other set of keys (cheaper than a locksmith) and calling the storage company to let them know I would miss my appointment to pay my deposit (but I still want the 10×10 and I’ll come tomorrow, please, please, please hold it for me) … after/during all that, I also broke down and sobbed right in the middle of the office and could not stop for a long time. I’d been divorced about six months and was just, you know, fragile.

I think these days you call it an Ugly Cry.

I believe those missing keys were meant to be a little poke, a little mean joke haha by those four girls who reported to me but resented it. But once I’d cried, there was no way on God’s beautiful blue-green earth the keys were going to come back to me. They’re rusting at the bottom of some creek in DeKalb County, Tennessee. No, ladies: I know one of you said I probably just lost them myself and they’ll turn up. But they never did.

They never did.

The next month I was at a crafts fair in Centennial Park in Nashville and I bought this handmade key ring for twenty dollars, the one I still get compliments on twenty-eight years later. (Twenty-eight! So what’s that you say about my losing my keys?) And every time I do, I remind myself that I am a strong person, even if I have to cry sometimes.

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In My Parents’ House Were Many Books …

One was The Family of Man, which contained the photos from an exhibition (organized by world-famous photographer Edward Steichen) at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. This book was, in fact, the official book of the exhibition. I don’t know if my parents went to New York to see the exhibit (how I wish I’d asked!) or if they took me (I would have been very young)  … but I know that as a child I loved that book.

I still have it. I asked for it when I left home at eighteen.

This book is a dear friend.

Copyright 1955.

And I can tell you that the book influenced me in profound ways, that I looked at it over and over and over. As a kid. As a teen. As a young adult. The people in the photos are, truly, as familiar to me as my own family. (Oh, but hey—they are.)

I have wondered if my travel-lust has its roots in this book. And I have wondered if my anti-racism has its roots in this book. My husband says it is because these people were different from me that I was fascinated and perhaps that is true. But the lesson here is still the same: current thinking to teach anti-racism is that we must see race, not ignore it (as we were taught fifty years ago—to be colorblind).

The softcover, pictured here, has sold 4 million copies and it is still in print—so I can’t be the only one who has a thing for this book.