Anyone who knows me at all knows that I love to read. My guilty secret is that although I love to read it isn’t always what people expect me to read. My leisure reading list very rarely includes classics or anything on anything resembling a suggested reading list. I certainly don't read anything I have to analyze or think about! This summer I found a series of novels that sparked an idea. The series revolves around a charm bracelet. Each of the protagonists ends up with this bracelet and the story involves the charm specific to that character. As I read I couldn’t help but be drawn into the symbolism of each of the charms. I guess that also isn’t news to those of you who know me: I look for symbolism everywhere and am hardly ever disappointed. That got me to thinking that charm bracelets used to be very popular. Erin has one that my mother gave her and added charms to it occasionally to mark special occasions or memories shared by the two of them. A truly traditional charm bracelet can be read as easily as a published chronicle of a person’s life. Each of the trinkets attached to the chain represents a very particular event or memory – something the person who owns the bracelet wants to insure is never forgotten. So, if I had such a charm bracelet, what would be on it? If you unlatched it and stretched it out in front of you on a table, what stories of my life would be told in its charms? Bear with me, but I think I’d like to, figuratively, add charms to that chain.
Logically the charms on a bracelet should be arranged chronologically – at least that appeals to that very small OCD element in me. So, that means that I should start at the beginning: my birthday. That charm is actually very easy. The actual shape of the charm isn’t really that important as long as it includes a blue sapphire which is my birthstone. The second, I believe, should be a tree. You know, one of those which everyone recognizes in illustrations as a family tree - a large, spreading, strong oak – as well as a bow to represent the ties that bind. I was in a play in college and the theme of the work was family and the ties that bind. In the play those ties are represented by the hymn “Blessed Be the Ties That Bind.” Maybe I should include a music note instead of the bow. What do you think?
The largest portion of my childhood revolved around school, so the third charm would have to be a symbol of that. Therefore, the third charm would be my school mascot – a bulldog. You know, looking back on this list I realize it is a bit sad! Here I am all the way through high school and I only have three charms! Was my life really that limited? Maybe I should add a sprig of ivy. According to my symbolism dictionary (yes, I have a symbolism dictionary!), combined with a productive Google search, ivy has a propensity to interweave in growth. Ever furrowing and intertwining, ivy is an example of the twists and turns our friendships often take - but it is also a testimony to the long-lasting connections and bonds we form with our friends over the years. I like to think that ivy would be an appropriate charm for the friendships I made in school and the influence of those friendships on the person I have become. That works for me. The next charm will definitely be ivy.
The four years of my life after high school were rather unsettled. Not in a bad way, really, but still not exactly what anyone with any sense would call years that followed any kind of plan. I took a couple of classes at a junior college while I was still in high school yet attended a different one after high school. I left there and went to the University of Montevallo but only for one semester before transferring myself to Troy. I think the appropriate charm for these years should be a question mark indicating my indecision. I never really formulated a plan for myself. Somehow it just all seemed to have worked out for the best! This is not a path I encourage others to take. Working without a plan doesn’t always work out well. To proceed with chaos produces chaos as a result. Oh! That’s an idea! Isn’t there actually a symbol for chaos? I’ll have to check that out.
I don’t think it would be fair not to include some kind of symbol for the friends I made in college. These are the people with whom I feel an interesting connection. These are the people that knew me “when.” To represent these special people and my personal growth as a result of our friendships, I would include a robin. The robin represents growth in all areas of a person’s life as well as rebirth of the human spirit.
Closer to the end than the middle of the college education process I met John. I’ve thought about lots of different charms I could use for the beginning of our relationship but have decided that the best representation of our relationship is a simple wedding band. Our relationship is as precious as the metal and as endless as the circular shape. In addition to a wedding ring, I'd like to add a sarus crane. These cranes are known for their heartiness and ability to endure seasons of hardship. In India sarus cranes represent a happy marriage because after a long, intricate courtship, they mate for life. Interestingly enough, their courtship involves a dance, a waltz if you will. They return to the same breeding grounds year after year to build their nest, incubate, and nurture their young - together. They have an equal partnership in their "marriage." What better example for a loving marriage?
The next milestone of my life would be Erin. I think for her I would choose a simple aquamarine followed by other charms for our life with her: a volleyball, a softball, a mortar board, a bear, Mickey Mouse ears, and a bunny. At least a few of those are self-explanatory but I probably need to explain a couple of the others. We moved to Kinston when Erin was two. Her bedroom was on one end of our trailer and one wall was taken up almost completely by a large bay window. For reasons I will never understand, Erin had convinced herself that there were bears around our trailer. Many, many nights before she would go to bed, she would ask me if Daddy Paul had killed all the bears. She would go to the window and peek out the curtains to see if she saw any he may have missed. Although she never claimed to have seen any bears, she still seemed to need to be assured that Daddy Paul had, in fact, killed all the bears in the area at some point during the day that day. I’d love to ask her about that, but I doubt she would even remember what started all that. One day she simply quit asking. Maybe she decided that all the bears were finally gone.
Another I need to explain is a story I’ve never told anyone as far as I can remember. I certainly don’t remember ever having told Erin. When I want my students to do something quickly, I’ll tell them to be “quick like bunnies!” I’ve been saying that for years now and for some reason they all find that very funny. But the reason I think I should include a bunny charm is because of Erin. When she was not much more than a toddler, I was trying to get her to hurry doing something. I wish now I could remember what that was because it would surely make this story better. Oh, well. Anyway, after my having told her to hurry several times I decided to change my tactic. Instead of telling Erin to hurry, I told her to be quick. She turned, looked at me, and said, “Like a bunny?” I said, “Yes, Erin. Quick like a bunny!” They must have been talking about bunnies at daycare because she wasn’t interested in picking up the pace to “hurry,” but had no trouble picking up the pace to be “quick like a bunny”! So, yes, I must have a bunny. Erin, if you are reading this, I can’t believe I never took the time to tell you that story. I thought about it a couple of times, but thought you might be embarrassed when I actually said it in class. I realize that embarrassing you by telling “Erin Stories” never stopped me before, but that particular memory was just too sweet to share.
I think the last charm I have to add would be an empty bird nest. Now that Erin is in college, John and I are your typical “Empty Nesters.” Our baby has flown and we are now on our own. That’s okay. There’s still space on this bracelet of mine to add charms for the memories John and I will make. I’m sure that one day I will add something for Erin’s wedding, my and John’s special anniversaries, family trips. Who knows? The potential represented by that empty space is limitless! It is ripe with possibility.
I realize that this whole thought process has been a bit cheesy, but who cares? I warned from the very beginning that the purpose of my blog was to help me process my own thoughts and not to entertain or educate anyone else. Writing it all out this way helps me to organize my thoughts and memories in a way that is meaningful to me. It helps to see it divided into neat paragraphs. Our lives are made up of a series of choices and the often unpredictable branch events of those choices. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything in life could be so easily managed? Just think…lay out a blank chain and pick from a wide variety of charms the experiences and memories you want to have in your life. All you have to do is choose and organize them any way you want. But then, really, don’t we all do that anyway?