Keys, Change and the Sound of Waiting

I’ve mentioned before that I spent a good chunk of my childhood at my maternal grandparent’s house. When both my parents were working my younger brother and I would go there for most of the day during the summer as well as afternoons after school until our folks were done with work.

During the summer days that meant not only lots of movie watching but also accompanying them on shopping trips they needed to go on, either to the grocery store or elsewhere. All that came rushing back to me a short while ago when, while waiting for something to happen, I found myself jangling the combination of keys and change in the pocket of my jeans.

That was my grandad’s go-to move on many of these trips, often to a local Sears or Montgomery Ward’s or J.C. Penney’s. My grandmother was a big fan of trying things on before she bought them and was regularly looking for a new skirt or blouse. At least once a week we would trek out to one of these or other stores so she could find something, which invariably lead to the three of us guys waiting for her in the couple of chairs that were placed 10 feet from the dressing rooms. Whether he was sitting or pacing the floor nearby, he regularly would add the percussive jingling of whatever combination of keys and loose change he had in his pocket to the background music playing over the store’s speakers.

As a child, the idea of having keys in many ways is a symbol of adulthood. We give babies and toddlers toy sets of oversized keys because something about it is funny, all of us knowing that child isn’t ready for real keys. As the child gets older they try to imitate adult’s usage of those keys, attempting to put them into door locks or using them on a toy car they have. Only when that person is old enough and responsible enough do we entrust them with a real set of keys, first usually to the house and ultimately, in the final rite of passage, to the car.

I’m not nearly as old as my Grandad was, even as early as when I was born. But I’m now old enough to be playing the music of my childhood, a childhood spent waiting as patiently as someone that age can while listening to the sweet, high-pitched metallic sound of a man whose humor, sweetness and loving attitude I miss regularly.