The Key in the Door

by Alicia Beckwith

        Today I received an e-mail listing several things that are and were pertinent to folks my age. One of them was about the milk man who would come per the order that was placed the last time he delivered his products to our home. Some of you readers may also remember those days.
        I was always enthralled when my mother would open the little inside door and pull out a quart of milk and a pint of cream. (When I was a little taller, I realized there was another little door on the outside of the house.) The milk always had cream on the top, and in the winter, when it got cold, the milk pushed up the cream through the seal on top. She’d let me carry the cream to the ‘ice box’ we had in the kitchen. That was before the refrigerators we now have, so that kind of tells you how old I am!
        I had a friend, Judy Kenyon, who lived kitty-corner to our house. Our mothers would help each other by watching the other mother’s child as she went on her errands. One day my mother had to be away, so Mrs. Kenyon had me come over in the morning with plans to go to Seneca Park Zoo, then come back for lunch before my mother came home.
        She loaded us into the car, and off we went. Of course, we loved looking at all the animals and the pool to watch the seals. We were there for about a couple of hours before we returned home. Mrs. Kenyon helped us out of the car and into the back door that led down to the basement and up a few steps into the kitchen.
        When she reached for her purse, she began hunting for the key to get into the kitchen. Her hands started flying around inside her bag as she became more and more agitated. Finally she told us she must have left the key in the house when we left. She’d said she didn’t know what she was going to do. I asked why we could get in thus far, and she explained that the Rochester Gas and Electric was to read the electric meter that morning, so she’d left the outside door open, but had locked the inside when we’d left by the front door.
        I looked into the key hole, and behold! The key was in the door! Having read many of Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew mysteries, I “swung into action.”
        I asked her if she had a pen. When she informed me she didn’t, I asked her for a nail file. That produced another negative. We finally found her thin handled comb in her purse. She handed it over to me. I then asked her to see if there were any newspapers in the basement as I knew they burned coal and may start the fire with a newspaper. She went down, coming up with several pages together.
        Mrs. Kenyon stepped next to me to watch as I slid the newspapers under the door; pushed the key out with her comb handle; slid the paper out; picked up the key and gave it to her. She gave me a hug, and then opened the door.
        We enjoyed tomato soup and pbj sandwiches for lunch, then my mom came home to pick me up.
        The downside to this story was that Mrs. Kenyon was leery about how a nine year old girl could know how to do this. (Did she wonder if I was the neighborhood 9 year old cat burgler?) It was then that mom told her about all the Nancy Drew books I’d read. 

Alicia Beckwith is a local poet and author and has been writing for four decades.  Her poems have been published in book collections and magazines.