December 18, 2010 by jessperriam
An hour or so ago Dad and I went to the liquor superstore to buy some beer and white wine. Yes, it’s the perfect father-daughter activity. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover who bought the carton of Little Creatures Rogers.
When we got to the checkout, the young woman serving me said, “I like your key, does it mean anything?”
“Nah, not particularly.”
“Oh, ok. It looks cool, I really like it. It shows your personality and your individual taste.”
I’ll have you know she was being 100 per cent sincere. I explained that I wore an old, rusty key around my neck because I like the look of it. I said I saw a bunch of similar looking old keys at an antique shop in Notting Hill, London. The keys probably unlocked wardrobes, treasure chests and perhaps a back shed or two in times gone by.
But I lied about the key not really meaning anything. Sort of.
People have asked me so often what it means.
“Does it unlock your heart?”
“Pfft. No!” I scoff at them. A little softie and hopeless romantic I may be, but I would never, ever say anything as corny as that, let alone make a symbolism so vomitous.
I like the aesthetic of these old, rusty keys as opposed to the bright, shiny, ludicrously expensive Tiffany keys that dangle from the décolletages of overdone women the world over. But mostly it reminds me of who I am and where I come from.
Most of us Australians are boat people some way down the line. Unless you came here in the last 30 to 40 years, you, or your grandparents or their parents came by boat. And our Australian story each started in different ways. It could have been traumatic end to a clandestine journey as we saw earlier this week, or there might have been a ten-pound Pom scheme involved like so many of my friends who are lucky enough to qualify for British passports.
Me? Some of my ancestors are the original no-pound Poms. In fact, they’d probably be quite annoyed with that assessment, seeing as some of them came from Scotland. Some of them came under lock and key, one of them was done for armed robbery or possession of stolen goods or something delightful. It wasn’t a loaf of bread. But there were others of my ancestors who helped to keep these convicts locked up.
So what does the key mean? The key reminds me of my story, how I got to be me, an Australian. It makes me think and makes me daydream of the journey my ancestors took to get here.What drove them to a life or even a moment of crime? Were they scared? Were they resentful? How did they cope with the concept of never going back to their homeland ever again?
And what did they make of their lives after their release from prison? How did they deal with the stigma attached to their deeds – a stigma that wasn’t lifted until well after their passing?
I also have my fair share of ancestors whose first Australian address wasn’t: c/- Fremantle Prison, Fremantle, Colony of Western Australia. I have a long chain of hard-working, inspired people who packed up their lives in the 1800s to come to Australia for the promise of a better life. They inspire me and bring up just as many questions as my convicts do.
So what does the key mean? It reminds me of the long line of people who have contributed something to me genetically, what they did and where they’ve been.
And also, I just like the look of it.