[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]

Keys’ primary function is to get us inside something that belongs to us. This is evident by the name we call individual keys—car keys, house keys. And while they are such small objects, they mean a great deal of importance to us.

Less than a month after we bought this house, Mom and I walked out the backdoor to enjoy the spring air. We were sitting in the sunlight, sipping cool drinks, and we had no care in the world. That is, until Mom tried to go back inside for a moment and found the door locked. Nervous, I went to the side door, which was locked. And the front door—locked as well. Without that key, our world was turned upside-down. We couldn’t access our things, we might have had to spend a great deal of money on a locksmith, and we began to bicker and argue with each other. Being separated from that small piece of metal changed everything

We tend to think of keys as independent things, but really they are a fused pair with locks. You might think of keys and locks as opposites, as dueling eternal foes trying to get the advantage over the other, but really they are the best of friends. They have different personalities, sure. The lock is a recluse, quiet and still. It finds peace in guarding, waiting, and watching. It is stubborn, and if it does not want to cooperate with you, your only choice past it is by excessive force. Yet if you bring the lock’s best friend, it’s closest companion, the key, then it will open to you with the utmost grace. The key just has to give a nod in one’s direction and say, “He’s with me” or “She’s cool, don’t worry” and you will be good to go. But what happens if you show up at the lock another time, and this time without the key, and you try to open the door? The lock will not budge, but it will say: “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

And what a cruel twist of fate that is! This is your own house, your own car, that you are now a estranged from. Without the right key, the house itself rejects you, blocking you from entering as if you were a common criminal. The car ignores you, as if you were a gust of wind brushing its side. Your keys are your passport to travel through your own life. Without them, you become an exile to yourself.