I held it out in front of me in one hand turning it over and over. The weight of it seemed heavier than I expected. It was a small key, and as I brushed the dirt away from it, a delicate tracing of ivy and vines became clear at the top. The key itself looked like it belong to a long lost door to a forgotten world and considering that it was stuck in the grass of some small town elementary school I found myself wondering what it was supposed to open.
I tucked the little key into my pocket, and later placed it on a key chain. I carried it around with me for over 10 years, trying it occassionally in antique store finds with rusty old locks that looked about the right size. I once even ventured to put it into a gate lock at a house that had been around long enough that it looked like it belonged. All the while the key in my pocket carried an energy of searching for something...so I kept my eyes open.
Like most things alive with only hope and belief, the strength of the keys whimsical entrance into my life faded from mind and with it the sense of searching to find home faded from my pocket until one day the key found it's way into my jewelry box instead of every lock I passed. It sat there untouched for 6 more years until one night in my living room it came up in an unexpected conversation.
"I dreamed once of a woman dressed in white," I told my mother, "I dreamed of her so much that she scared me. One day driving to Grandma's I swear I saw her on the side of the road. So I told Grandma."
My grandmother was the sort to believe a spirit on the side of the road was not only normal but expected. A trace of Cherokee blood trickled through her and it kept her aligned to things I had only just begun to understand at the age of 16 when I passed that hollow woman in white.
"You'll just keep seeing her...that's what Grandma said... so you might as well stop and talk to her." I said in my best Grandma voice. My mother seemed not at all suprised by my story or my grandmother's answer or my strange encounter...so I continued. "So I did. And she just walked slowly in front of my car. So I drove behind her for over 5 miles from the river to the middle of town and then parked my car and followed her around the chain link fence that she walked through at the elementary school until she took me to the corner with the brick wall. The wind came up and the it danced around me like a chapter in the The Secret Garden and there on the ground was a key."
I described the key upstairs, I knew it by heart. And my mother listened intently while I talked about how I felt like I had to carry it around forever and how I never saw the woman in white again.
"I know that key," my mother said with a grin, "it opens the door to your great grandmother's house." A house long since torn down, but which would have at the time been standing alone and vacant. "I wonder what you would have found if you went in."