The Charm Bracelets #sol19
Unexpectedly, I was drawn back to the charm bracelets this week. I hadn’t thought about them in some time. They used to be ever present, but now… My husband was thinking of places he’d like to visit and said, I’d like to go to Lake Tahoe. I think I’ve been there, I said. You should check your bracelet, you’ve probably got a charm from there.
As I was walking by the jewel box with the charm bracelets on my dresser yesterday morning, I stopped and opened the lid. There they sat gleaming in the still morning silence. There are two bracelets, one curated during my childhood and one began as a gift from my husband so many years after. Pulling them out, the soft jingle gave me that feeling, that soft, safe feeling of memories on memories on memories, and I began to gently touch each charm in turn.
I wish I knew how the first one began. I look through the charms, but the origin doesn’t come to me. Perhaps it was that set from my distant aunt. Why did she begin to send those and then stop after just a few? That broken charm with the Portugal seal is from that set. Are these four Asian ones as well? Each one is spaced out along the bracelet, so perhaps she sent it all, the bracelet and the charms. The rest, they are adventures of my childhood. Each one a story. Some are silly. Why did I pick that one? I think as I consider each one. That Hopi one had hoops in each hand. That chair lift from Banff? From my father’s trips? That worry bird, I know why that’s there.
Charms were once ubiquitous, every gift shop and jewelry store was full of them. I recall moments of pouring over choices, carefully deciding which to pick. My mother and grandmother each had broad thick gold charm bracelet nearly an inch across with silhouettes dancing along the edge, girl heads and boy heads for my grandmother’s grandchildren. I’m not sure what happened to them. The three of us were scattered from each other after my father’s death so many years ago. And now, they are gone as well. My charms remain from that time, stubbornly grasping those memories and make each one strong and clear.
Memories of car trips and museums, wonders and joy, wrapped into silver plate and jingle. There’s a beautiful articulated pineapple, still shiny after all these years. Who went to Hawaii, I wonder. My mother didn’t fly, afraid, I suppose. Perhaps again from my father, but now it shines here as a promise that I should go. Ballet shoes, musical notes, a roller skate remind me of a younger Susan, each accomplishment growing the woman she would become. Race cars, old cars, prospectors and broncos from a father who shared so many things he loved. Nearly fifty charms to represent a childhood and the memories and love that can be contained there.
My adult bracelet has a subtle difference, but still carries memories of trips and passions. A stand mixer and bundt pan. A bright blue crystal heart and the clock from Marshall Field’s. A pine cone, a pea pod, and a towering sequoia from my favorite place on earth. A flat charm that holds the barest trace of the young faces of those two cherished boys, so long grown. They were so excited about that one. I remember them in the photo booth and then waiting, waiting from the charm to come out. Precious, precious memories.
I used to wear the charm bracelet when I was nervous, if I had to get in front of a crowd or have a tough meeting or interview. I rubbed my opposite hand along the charms, touching this one and that, causing that gentle tinkle, to sooth myself. It worked every time. When my second one started to fill, it became nearly impossible to wear the two of them at once, so I’d choose which one based on which strength I wanted to draw from, my beginning or my now.
We still look for charms on our trip and talk about them in between. You rarely see charms now, a tradition from another time. If I see one in an antique store, I look at each charm, thinking about the collector. Some day someone will look at my charms. I hope they will feel them as I do now. Those charm bracelets in that antique box on my dresser waiting to stir the memories of a well-lived life with each turn of my wrist.