THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 10–Key Chains

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.


Who isn’t guilty of having more key chains than keys? I mean, at least once in your life? I think at one time, we could all get away with not just one key chain, but a few. After all, your keys, like the wallet you use, bag you carry, or clothes you wear, say something about you—your hobbies, likes/dislikes, habits (I know many people who carry nail clippers or wine/bottle openers on their key chains).

Since the relatively recent invention of store savings cards that conveniently clip on your key ring, though, having more than one decorative item on your keys can make them heavy and difficult to carry or even use. I’d use one or two key chains for awhile, but then remove them because someone gave me a new one or I wanted something different. So the chains from key rings past ended up in a shoebox—because each one said something about me or reminded me of a specific time or era in my life.

Today, out they go.

Charles got me this in 2000, when we were on our Hunter Thompson kick—we were in the process of reading all of his books, and we loved the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What was neat about these “wallet” type key carriers was that, if you had standard keys, (they certainly wouldn’t work well now with the huge electronic things that pass for “keys” for today’s cars), they stayed neat and didn’t stab you in your pocket or tear the lining of your purse.

This was taken when I was using the Las Vegas key book. Here’s me on February 1, 2001, at a hotel in Mystic, Connecticut. Charles and I celebrated my birthday by having a “Fear & Loathing at Foxwoods” weekend (notice the red IBM typewriter in the background? Larger model than HT’s, but the same year). We went to the casinos, obviously!

This was when I was wearing a lot of Asian-inspired clothing, especially for going out, so I’d use this on my keys (it was also handy for change). This was back when I first started dating Nathan. I used this for most of the year 2004.

December, 2005, at Pencils! Writing Workshop’s India Dinner at a popular Indian restaurant in Darien, Connecticut. This was when I was using this keychain. I still own—and wear—this jacket!

I got this keychain in 1998 in the Amity section at Universal Studios Theme Park in Florida, which back then was awesome (it’s awful now—they took the whole Amity flavor away from it and now it has nothing to do with anything). The reason I bought it was not necessarily because I loved Jaws, but because when I was 12 and really into Jaws, a childhood friend of mine, Michael Shepherd, gave me a pair of real baby Tiger Shark Jaws. I had those things for years—they were truly a treasured possession. But during one of my moves—it might have been the one to Charles’ in 1996—they got broken. This was the closest thing I could find to the shape and size of those jaws (although this is a Great White, not a Tiger Shark). I had this on my keychain for the rest of 1998 and into 1999. It was made of durable plastic.

That’s me, at left, as Bloody Mary in New Milford High School’s 1989 production of South Pacific. Look at the set piece to the right, the one with the signs that read “Shlunk Edz.” I remember working on that set (the handwriting on those signs is definitely mine), and I used a few of my personal items to decorate the outside of the shack. If you look below the “Edz” sign, you will see, just to the left of a tiki-esque mask, my beloved real baby tiger shark jaws. Oddly enough, this isn’t where they were broken. Somehow, they survived the whole run of the show.

The Jaws kiosk at Universal Studios in 1998, where I bought the plastic shark jaws key chain to replace my real shark jaws.*

* I haven’t been to Universal in many years, so I don’t know if its still there—there were, at one point, rumors of Universal Orlando closing its Jaws attraction (you can read about that here: If you’ve never been on the Jaws ride and want to read reviews, you can check that out at Theme Park Critic: If you are a fan of Universal’s Jaws ride, you can hook up with it via a Facebook page for fans here:…/143535942366213

I always loved Viewmasters when I was a kid—we even had the old projector (but as was typical in the dark hole of a house I grew up in, no white walls on which to project the images)—and I never quite grew out of it. In 1997, I was re-acquiring many things from childhood (things I’m getting rid of now, strangely enough), and one of them was not only Viewmaster reels, but also various Viewmasters themselves. This was the keychain I was using that year. It actually did work—you could look in it and see little pictures of astronauts and planets. It was a pretty cool keychain, actually.

This is one side of a double-sided key chain I was using in 2004 and 2005, when I was attending Burlington College and spending many, many weekends out in Newport, RI, with friends from my days at the University of Rhode Island back in the early 1990s. This is the side that depicts my friends from URI—from left, poet Heather Sullivan, me, and Kaitlyn—in the summer of 2004.

Heather, Kaitlyn, and I met in Dr. Pearlman’s Creative Writing class at URI in January, 1993, and I drafted them into being in a play I was working on. This photo was taken three months after we met. The Cast of Stranded on 93, from left: Kaitlyn, Dave, me, Pam, and Heather.

Me and poet friends Tara (middle) and Tifani (right) in November, 2004 at RiRa on Church Street in Burlington are on the flip side of this key chain. We were tight for the three years we were together at Burlington College. I had an awesome time with Tara up at Burlington just a few weeks ago in May.

This is me my first day of class at Burlington College in Burlington, Vermont, November 2004.


 The following was a set: one clear key chain with five double-sided mini movie posters. Each depicted one of the Disney Pixar films up through 2003. This key chain came with a set of books, and I used this, changing out the cards, for a few years between 2007 and 2009.

Whenever I think of Monsters, Inc., I think of all the time I spent at the Bronx Zoo. I was going there a lot during that time.

Boo was, by far, my favorite character in Monsters, Inc…who could resist “Kitty!”? And that scene in which Sully has to say goodbye just about ripped my heart out.

That’s me with frosting in my hair, December, 2001. This was right around the time I saw, and fell in love with, Monsters, Inc.

I had never seen the original Toy Story until I got the 10th Anniversary edition on DVD for Christmas in 2005.

I absolutely could not wait for this movie to come out—that was right around the time I’d spent two years working at Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and one year working at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, so needless to say, I was really into fish. In addition, both aquariums at which I volunteered added "Finding Nemo" fishtanks to their exhibit floors. This movie was also a tear-jerker, though. I’m constantly amazed by the depth of Pixar’s stories.

In June of 2003 we had to drive down to North Carolina for my brother Chuck’s wedding. The Nemo toys that came in the Happy Meals—collecting them all—became part of the goal of the trip for most of that month. Nemo was our travel mascot. Here he is on the car hood outside a hotel in Virginia.

I did “Birthday Sleepovers” a few years in a row, and 2004’s theme was Finding Nemo. Here’s what the cake looked like (next photo is a close-up of the cake, since the scan is really bad).

Nathan’s nickname has always been Clownfish. Here he is posing with a stuffed one after the Oyster Festival, September, 2004.

I didn’t see A Bug’s Life, which came out in 1998, until 2007, after Nathan and I went to Disney World. Nathan got it on DVD.

I posed with A Bug’s Life’s Flik at Animal Kingdom in 2006 even though I hadn’t seen the film yet. At left, my niece Andi.

I didn’t see Toy Story 2 until just recently, actually, but the major association I make with this film is Christmas 1999, because that’s when Sara McLaughlin’s song “When She Loved Me”—the movie’s theme song—came out.

The scene when Jessie is abandoned in the box was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

I don’t remember where I got this, but I loved Lilo & Stitch when it came out in 2002 (up at a movie theatre in Lake Placid, in case anyone wants to know). Again, another film that really spoke to me, especially about loneliness. I think my favorite line in the film—okay, my favorite line backed by my favorite piece of scoring in that film—is “This is my family…it’s little, and broken, but still good. Yes, still good.” I had that clip as the outgoing greeting on my answering machine (yes, an old answering machine) for awhile. I used to associate this movie with sad memories, but Nathan’s a big Stitch fan (he’s really into the whole “badness level” idea), so now those sad memories have been replaced with happy ones.

In the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, August 2008, clowning around with Stitch and my friend Meghan.

Nathan’s Mom gave me this one year for my birthday, and I really loved it because it smelled like island flowers. Unfortunately, the perfume that was inside it rotted the inside out, and little flakes started falling out all over everything. I kept it in a plastic bag for awhile, but it just keeps disintegrating, so sadly, it has to go. I used it for about three years, though.

So the question is: what’s on my keys now? Aside from a bunch of store cards (some for specific Northeastern stores, which I’ll toss when I get to Florida probably to make room for some from Southeastern stores), I’ve got a Sea World Key chain that my sister sent me up from Texas (it has a shark on it—no surprise there) years ago—now that I’m going to Florida, it’s appropriate. And one very special silver heart that was from my friends Lisa, Linda, and Janet at my office. It has my name on it, and I’ve carried it for about ten years now. If I ever decide not to use it anymore, it’ll go in my special keepsake box.

Oh, yeah—and a nail clipper from Catskill Game Farm, which I bought on the last day that beloved park from my childhood was open (more on this in a future episode). Because I can’t stand it when I have an uneven nail.

See what I mean?

My keys as they look today.

The key chain my sister got me when she visited Sea World San Antonio.

Me at Sea World Orlando in September, 1998. It was the first time I’d ever touched a sting ray. Little did I know that three years later, touching sting rays would become a regular part of my day as an aquarium volunteer.

The nail clipper I bought at Catskill Game Farm on its last day of operation in October 2006. There wasn’t much left in the gift shop at that point, but they had plenty of these, and besides, it was useful.

Me petting the animals at Catskill Game Farm, summer, 1975. The woman to the left is my grandmother (Grandma).

Me, making friends with a goat at Catskill Game Farm on the last day it was open, October 9, 2006.

It was awesome to take Nathan, who grew up on a farm, to Catskill Game Farm in New York on the last day it was open, October 9, 2006. Here it looks like he’s having a conversation with an alpaca.

A close-up of the heart keychain some dear friends of mine gave me several years ago.


About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at

Posted on June 30, 2011, in The Goodbye Project and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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