Tuesday, January 15, 2013


As she moves into her new place in Augusta, Sara decided to make use of an old jewelry box that once belonged to Old Juanita. Old Juanita was my aunt, the wife of my father’s older brother Jack. Uncle Jack always called her “Old Juanita,” as in “Me and Old Juanita were talkin’ the other day and she said…” I always called her “Aunt Juanita.”

Anyway, after both Uncle Jack and Aunt Juanita died, Sara came into possession of the jewelry box. She has had it for a few years but just now is putting it to use. When she set about cleaning it out she discovered some interesting things.

For one thing, she found some calling cards with my father’s name on them. “Champ Lee Ruffin”—that’s all they said. Why did Daddy have calling cards? Why were they in Aunt Juanita’s jewelry box? It is a mystery.

For another thing, she found Uncle Jack’s military medals. He served with the Army Air Corps in Europe during World War II. I don’t know what I’ll ever do with those medals, but I do know I’ll keep them since Uncle Jack and Aunt Juanita had no children to whom I can pass them along.

She also found keys—lots of keys.

I put all the detecting skills that I have acquired by watching hundreds of episodes of crime dramas and by reading dozens of crime novels (I am a fan of the “noir” genre) to detect that some of the keys were for suitcases. The word “Samsonite” on them was my first clue. Since those particular suitcases are long gone, I threw those keys away.

I threw all the other keys away, too, most of which appeared to be house keys. But those keys got me to thinking.

There was a time when those keys opened doors, probably doors to Aunt Juanita and Uncle Jack’s house in East Point or later to the Ruffin home place in Yatesville after they retired and moved back there. There was a time when those keys let them into the places where they felt safe and secure and at home. There was a time when those keys were very significant, very meaningful, and very necessary.

That time has passed; other people now live in those houses and other keys open those doors. The doors are still important but the keys that open them have changed.

I threw all the keys away because there is no reason to hold on to them. I could have held on to them for nostalgic reasons like I am holding on to Uncle Jack’s medals, but there are things that should be discarded as life progresses and circumstances change.

Sometimes, if you want to keep opening the doors, you have to use the new key, even if you’ve had the old one for a long, long time…

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