We have a giant armoire in our living room. We bought it years ago, and the people who sold it to us told us it was from France. It’s probably the only piece of furniture we own that could be considered beautiful, with stained glass windows in the upper cabinet doors. It’s old, really old. It came with the original skeleton key to unlock the drawers, upper and lower cabinet doors. I tied a lovely tassel on the key and stuck it in one of the locks. We moved the key from lock to lock as we needed. We used to put special things in this cabinet — photographs, important school papers, small keepsakes (and other ephemera). In one of the cabinets, we kept the limited bottles of alcohol that came into our home.
Our system worked fine.
Until several years ago.
And I’m embarrassed to admit just how many years ago it was, but I’m going for it.
Our system worked fine until about six years ago.
You see, our then 4-year-old daughter thought the aforementioned lovely tassel and key were too much to resist. She had played with it since she could walk. There had never been a problem. I didn’t think it could become an issue.
I was wrong.
One day, and we don’t know exactly when, said child took said key with said tassel and placed it somewhere unknown.
We have searched high and low for that key. Every time there’s a lull in our lives, one of us will say, “I wonder where that key to that cabinet is.” And we’ll take turns suggesting remote places a 4-year-old girl could put a key with a tassel. We even get excited from time to time and are certain we’ll have just the spot. We’ll run and look. But to date, we’ve found nothing.
At this point, we think we know what’s inside the cabinet. But the truth is, we don’t. Whatever else is on the inside at this point is a mystery to us.
It’s kind of like a time capsule.
So now, we call it the time-oire.
We’ve tried every skeleton key we’ve been able to get our hands on. Nothing works. We’ve taken turns, alongside friends and family, trying to pick it. Whoever made these locks were serious about keeping the contents of the cabinet safe.
Fortunately, the drawers happened to be unlocked when the time-oire’s key went missing. So, we’ve had access to all the school papers in the six years since.
Of course, we know we could hire a locksmith and get the time-oire open. Or we could carefully move the very large time-oire and take the back off to at least get to the items inside, if not unlatch the locks.
But as of yet, we haven’t done either of those options.
It’s kind of convenient actually. Anything that goes missing has an automatic alibi. “I bet it’s in the time-oire,” one or the other of us will say. In fact, we’ve said that hundreds of times through the years.
Now there’s no way all the stuff that we’ve speculated on could possibly fit in the time-oire, but there’s always the possibility that whatever it is we’re looking for is locked up safe and sound. We keep thinking that key will turn up somewhere. After all, where could a 4 year old put a key on a giant tassel?
But as of yet, we’ve got nothing.
Yes, eventually, somehow or some way, we will open the time-oire. I just keep thinking we will find that key. In the meantime, I believe each member of our family secretly appreciates at least one arcane aspect of our lives. Having a little mystery is healthy. If we were Nancy Drew or Scooby-Doo, we could call it The Strange Case of the Giant Cabinet.
At this point, I realize the risk of over-selling the contents of the cabinet to my children. I still remember Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone’s vaults.
Long Story Short columns appear Sundays. Should you happen to know the whereabouts of the aforementioned skeleton key hanging on a large green tassel, please email Jan at Jan@janrisher.com.