As I am sitting here writing these words I am in the possession of a walkie-talkie. On the other end of the signal is my daughter and her friend who are taking a drive to see if the manufacturer’s specifications of a five mile range is actually true. This is definitely a COVID-19 activity. My daughter has the world at her finger tips with her smart phone, computer and streaming services, yet she chooses to see if she can still talk to me on a walkie-talkie. Even though she possesses the ability to FaceTime with me from anywhere in the world, she is ecstatic that her walkie-talkie still works from five miles away. When was the last time you got excited over something simple? One of the things that this whole pandemic, social distancing, self-quarantining thing is teaching me is how complicated we make life. Not child-like in any way. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (Mark 10:15)
My father is in the process of transitioning from his home to an independent living facility. He had to sign a six month lease in order to move in and then after this initial six month period he will go month-to-month. He decided to keep his home for these first six months as to assure that he had a place to go, just in case the independent living facility didn’t work out. This means that every now and again he needs me to go to his house and check things out and to pick some other things up for him. On one of these trips he asked me to take down a very old clock that was perched on top of a large hutch in his living room. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to get it down by himself so he asked me to get it down the next time I went over.
This clock has been around for a lot longer than I have been alive. It is an old clock that requires human intervention, every now and then, to wind it up and adjust the time. In order to wind it up one must open up the circular glass that covers the face of the clock. In the face of the clock are two areas into which a special key fits. The areas are two different sizes which requires two different sized keys. As I looked at this old clock I suddenly remembered where the old key used to be stored. I spun the clock around and there was the old key hanging from a hook that someone had placed on the back, just as I had remembered.
I removed the very odd shaped key from the hook and I held it in my hands. All of a sudden I was transported back to my childhood and I remembered using this very same key in many hours of imaginative play. See, the key is large on one end and small on the other with wing like handles in between so one can easily provide enough torque to turn either side of the key to wind up the clock. This design, in my mind, made the key look like some futuristic space ship. In that instant I was transported back to my elementary school days and the basement of our house in Indiana, the location of our family room. On the mantle above the fireplace was the home of this old clock from which I used to swipe this spaceship key and play for hours. This key would fight off alien invaders that had taken up residence in and around a baby grand piano or the rumpus room card table that was constructed out of old wine barrels. I couldn’t help it and in that moment I began to fly my old friend around my father’s dining room, just like I did when I was a kid.
It was if that old key had been waiting for me to find it once again. I imagined all of the times that this old key had heard my voice and longed for an earlier day when a child would rescue it from its hook and play with it for hours. Oh, how many years and how many times that key must have been disappointed; for that child had grown up and moved away. On the occasions when that familiar voice did reenter the house, the key and the hours of play were the last thing on his mind. In fact, until this very moment, I had forgotten about my old friend.
I had forgotten about the key. I knew that my dad still had the clock, thus I knew, on some level, that the old key must still be hanging on the back of it. Yet, not until that day, when I saw it again after all those years, did I fully acknowledge not only its existence in the present, but also its attachment to my past. I smiled as I re-hung that key to the back of that clock as I had done so many times in my childhood. Just like right now I am smiling in the exact same way as I think about my daughter running around the house playing with a walkie-talkie.