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I have a tendency to hoard key rings — it’s a lifelong pattern. Maybe it’s because I think that if I have a big set of keys, I won’t lose them. Or maybe I think that if I have keys, it means I won’t be homeless again.

I got the glitter wand key ring during high school. They were vaguely popular in the late 1980s and early ’90s. I graduated in ’91, while I was living in a homeless shelter for teens.

The glitter wand has floated with me through literally dozens of addresses in five states, through two colleges, two marriages, and four kids. Every few years I go through my keys and pare down, but the wand keeps finding its way back every so often.

In addition to the wand, my key ring also has brass KICK ASS key tag that a friend made for me about a year ago when I was going through a hard time (she added the purple leather tassel because that’s my favorite color), along with a little pencil sharpener, which I bought about six months ago. All three items tie back to the same thing: My 15-year-old child has Asperger’s Syndrome and has been continually hospitalized due to severe chronic mental illness since February 2017. I keep the glitter wand so that when she’s getting agitated or having a meltdown, I can pass it to her and it helps her to calm down. The pencil sharpener is for her to use to sharpen her colored pencils when I visit (sharpeners are contraband in the wards, because of the blade). And the tag is to remind me that even when life is hard, tough, and painful — even when I want to cry forever — my daughter needs me to stand up, wipe my tears, and kick ass to get her what she needs.

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Key Ring Chronicles is a crowd-sourced project that explores the stories behind objects that people keep on their key rings. It was created and is overseen by Paul Lukas, who has kept a quarter with a hole drilled through it on his own key ring since 1987. Readers are encouraged to participate by sending photos and descriptions here.