Fixing up a 1927 house is always an adventure! We have an ongoing to-do list of things that we are aware need to be fixed, but there is only so much time in the day (and so little money in the budget!) So, we’ve learned to live with certain quirks, telling ourselves that someday we’ll fix them. One of the old house issues that we discovered when we first moved in was that many of the upstairs doors no longer latched properly. It was more of an annoyance than an actual problem, so fixing them was way down on our to-do list. Because this house has beautiful original door locks and knobs, we knew we’d be keeping them. It was just a matter of finding the time to fiddle with them and figure out how to realign everything.
The other night we finally got around to working on them. My husband was reattaching the doorknobs in our daughter’s new bedroom (we took them off to paint), and he started working on lining everything back up. Surprisingly, it didn’t take that long to realign everything! Why did we wait so long?
The bedroom doors needed a skeleton key to lock and unlock them, so I checked in my stash of antique hardware that I collect/hoard in our basement, but none of mine worked. So, I emailed my favorite architectural salvage shop. I was certain they would have just what we needed, since they have everything!
The next day I received this reply:
There are thousands of different skeleton key patterns…. We don’t sell our keys because we try to use them to open locks we have. In 24 years we’ve only been successful about 8 times because they are all so different. Thanks for thinking of us though.” And she sent the contact information for a local locksmith that could look at our lock for us and perhaps create something that would work.
With a sigh, I forwarded the email to my husband. This was turning out to be more complicated than I thought! I was curious how much it would cost to create a custom key. My guess was more than I wanted to spend. Such is life in an old house!
A few hours later my husband called. “Did you see the email from Architectural Artifacts about the key?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“So, when do you want to go to the locksmith? Maybe later this week?”
There was a pause. “Oh,” he sounded surprised, “Did you want to do that? It sounds like it might be expensive. I found ten skeleton keys on eBay for $21.50.”
I rolled my eyes. “Seriously? Out of thousands of keys, do you really think one of those ten keys will work? That’s a waste of $21.50!”
After a long silence, it dawned on me. “You already ordered them, didn’t you?!?” I asked.
“Maybe,” He said sheepishly.
I was in a grumpy mood, and I didn’t even try to hide my annoyance. It wasn’t the $21.50 that annoyed me (although with my amazing thrifting habits, I can make that amount of money go a long ways). It was the fact that we were wasting time and money. Now I had to wait until the keys arrived in the mail, where I was certain we would discover that none of them would fit, and then we’d have to make the time to go to the local locksmith and spend even more money to do what I had wanted to do in the first place!
“How is it,” I grumbled, “that we both read the exact same email and came up with such different conclusions? Seriously, the odds are not in your favor!”
He laughed. He knows he is the risk taker in our relationship. I’m the rule follower and the one who always plays it safe. He’s the one who says, “Let’s buy a house at an auction!” I’m the one who says, “Tell me every worst-case scenario that could happen so I have a plan in place.” We actually balance each other out really well. Also, we are both stubborn! Which comes in handy when tackling old house problems that would send most people running to buy a newly constructed home.
“Oh, I’ll make them work! There are a few keys that look close to what we need. I can modify them slightly. Just you wait!” he replied with a laugh, and I could hear the determination in his voice.
A few days later when the skeleton keys arrived, none of them worked in our locks. Shocking, I know. After the kiddos were in bed, my husband took his eBay keys over to his parents’ house to borrow his dad’s “big tools.” He carefully examined the inside of the lock, and little by little he and his dad filed a key down, notching out the inside of it, until he was finally able to turn the key and use the lock!
It was after 1:00 AM when he finally came home triumphant, the modified key in hand. I was already sleeping, but I woke up when I heard his footsteps coming down the hall.
“It works!” he whispered, holding up the skeleton key.
“Good job, honey, I’m proud of you.” I mumbled, still half asleep.
“Thanks,” he said with a smile. “I knew I had to make it work, or I’d never hear the end of it!”
And we both laughed, because it’s true!
Friends, it’s amazing what can be accomplished with a little stubbornness, even when the odds are clearly not in our favor! For once, I didn’t mind being proven wrong. And now whenever I see that key I smile, because I know just how much work went into making it perfect. My husband knows that the way to my heart is home improvement projects!
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Have a beautiful day!