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The Spectator
founded 2004 by ron cruger
A place for intelligent writers
A place for intelligent readers
 by Ron Cruger
rcruger@san.rr.com
"The front door key"
2007 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
C
        The key slid easily into the front door lock. I had put that same key in the same lock a thousand times. There are some things we do without thinking. Pushing a key into a lock is one of those things. Our mind doesn’t need to think about the simple things. We save our brain cells for more complex actions, but so often it is the simple things we do that brand our lives.
     Once again I took the key from my pocket and placed it into the front door lock. I heard the click of the lock and returned the key to my pocket. This time it wasn’t a thoughtless, automatic reaction. This time I realized that I might never take the key from my pocket and open or close that familiar front door again. 
     The fire was approaching our neighborhood and we had to evacuate our home. 
     The San Diego Wildfire was no longer a show, an interesting reality program on television – it was a monster, an aggressor, an enemy threatening our home. 
     We had been ordered to leave. We could smell the smoke, the sky darkened, the sun’s rays being shadowed by ash and fumes. All of this had become surreal. There was something that was invading the sanctity of our home. My wife and I, amidst the haze and smoldering fumes, had found that our house was indeed, our home. Perhaps we all take our walls, our ceilings our doors and our closets for granted. They were there yesterday and they will be there tomorrow. Or will they? 
     This time when I took the key and locked the front door I stood there with my wife for a quiet moment. Our thoughts were the same. The fears, the doubts, the questions transmitted from one to the other. We could feel what the other was thinking – feeling. 
     We had spent the past 30-minutes quickly stacking framed family photographs and photo albums into shopping bags. We were doing our best to preserve our families’ history. Check books, phone books insurance policies, birth certificates, death certificates were loaded into bags. A single change of clothing, a toothbrush and paste. A razor, a hairbrush. The bare minimum. Time was running out. 
     Turning the key in the door lock for perhaps the last time became a ceremony – a realization that our lives are precious as are our homes. We take both for granted – we will be alive and healthy forever and our homes will always be there – awaiting the entrance of our key in the front door lock. Or will they? 
     Removing the key from the door lock had become an emotional milepost making us realize that this simple act done a thousand times was now significant. Our home. Our home. 
     Would they still be there tomorrow - the walls that protect us, the windows that we see from, the kitchen table where we eat our meals and read our newspaper. The stove that cooks our meals. The couch where we rest and relax, the beds that offer us sleep. Will we return to them the way they are now? 
     We held hands as we started to walk towards the loaded car. This vehicle that now contains our most important objects. Oddly, we both stopped halfway to the car and turned towards our home. All that we both offered was a small, honest grin of understanding. We had agreed. 
     We walked to the front door and for perhaps the last time I took the key from my pocket and slid it into the door lock. I pushed the door open and we entered our home. 
     For what could be the last time we looked at the kitchen, our dining room, the living room, each bedroom, even the bathrooms. We took metaphysical photographs of all the sights our eyes could gather. Our memories had become our family photo albums. 
     Once again we left our home. 
     We drove the car away from our home and our neighborhood. We didn’t look back. 
     We were gone two days, miles away from our home. 
     Two days had passed without any indication of whether our home had been reduced to ashes or remained upright as in our mental albums. Our home. 
     At last, we heard that it was permissible to drive the roads leading to our home. Smoke and soot painted the skies as we quietly drove home. 
     There was little to say when we saw our home erect and healthy. 
     The feelings were beyond joy. Beyond relief.     
     We sat in the car for a moment enjoying our walls, our windows, our roof. They’ll never again be taken for granted. They are part of us. 
     We walked up the walk to the front door and I removed my key and slid it into the front door lock. It seemed to work much easier this time.