When I was very young, my family was vacationing in Cape May, down the Jersey Shore. My parents decided to take me miniature golfing — my first time. My favorite color at the time was red (it still is today), so they gave me a red ball to use.
I enjoyed using the red ball as we putted our way through the first 17 holes. But at this miniature golf course, as at so many others, the 18th hole was a “hole of no return.” Once my cherished red ball went down the clown’s mouth, or whatever the target was, there was no way to retrieve it. Having never played before, I had thought the ball was mine to keep. But it wasn’t, and I was inconsolable.
My parents hadn’t anticipated this turn of events. Fortunately, the 18th hole was right next to the gift shop, and there on the wall were various golf balls mounted onto key rings. My parents reached for a red one and persuaded me that it was the same ball I had played with. It had only been taken away at the last hole, they assured me, so the ring could be attached to it. By the time I realized the truth, the wound had healed.
I didn’t have my own keys for most of my childhood, and we changed houses a couple of times, so it’s a bit of a miracle that the golf ball survived all these years. In high school I finally had both a house key and a car key, so I I knew it was finally time to put the ball to good use.
That was about ten years ago, and I still use the key ring with the golf ball. It’s bulkier than a typical key fob, which can occasionally present logistical challenges (I can’t take the whole set when I go running, for instance), but I like using it because it’s recognizable and almost impossible to lose. More importantly, it reminds me of how much my parents care about me, and how quick thinking and consideration can smooth over an upsetting situation.
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.