There are certain moments in a person’s life when it’s sort of expected that something special happen. Special in the sense that people put forth an effort to make note of the occasion. Of course tradition and culture and social settings affect the equation, but in general, certain “thresholds” are crossed with an extra hug, or a little curly Q at the end of the signature on a card, or a bit of creative flair in decorating or even a big splash of a party.
A few years ago I dipped my big toe into the fifth decade of my mortal life. I know, it may shock you that I am actually this old ;) First of all, I am really glad to have lived this long. I’m not one to bemoan my aging condition too much, though there are aspects that are surely less desirable. And it would be dandy to feel young in my flesh again. Yesterday, in a public restroom, after I had washed my hands, I placed them under one of those new fangled drying machines where the air pounces out of a faucet-like nozzle with supersonic force. The hands are dry in like 6 seconds. As I listened to what sounded like the exhale of a vortex, I watched my skin ripple, as if it were liquid. I made an audible comment about my poor old hands, their abundant flesh flopping under that powerful tunnel of wind. Oye Ve.
Every time I catch myself feeling sort of sorry for being on this side of prime, I remember the day I stood in the shower, weeping, wondering what was happening as my limbs began to lose feeling and my face froze with paralysis. There was no diagnosis, and the paralysis was quickly advancing. I lifted my face into the falling water over my head, my saline tears flowing down with the soft water weeping from the spout of my shower, and prayed. “Is this going to take my life, God?” My heart throbbed as I held my breath, the way I tend to do when I am overcome with emotion, as if breathing will move time along too quickly and I need it to stop. You know…that kind of cry where you think you won’t be able to inhale ever again, you just keep pushing air out past your vocal cords and just before you pass out your mouth opens like the doors on the spook house ride at the amusement park and you suck in oxygen like your lungs were deflated balloons. That particular moment in my life It was one of the most lonely, desperate moments I can recall. The unknown is so powerful.
Miraculously, the illness did not take my life, and I healed, mostly, with just enough residual effects to keep me humble and grateful.
Dave and I walked through Libby and Gram’s kitchen door on that day in early March and a warm, friendly, energetic cheer went up as all sorts of voices I cherish united in a massive chorus of HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What a great night that was! My brothers. My sisters. My friends. My children and grandchildren. My beautiful ageless mother. So fun! Hours later, When the crowd had cleared, the people closest to me huddled around in Gram’s family room and handed me their presents. Tiny boxes, wrapped in dainty little papers with neatly tied bows.
I have always looked admiringly at the silver charm bracelets girls wore when I was young. I saw someone with one a few years back and those old feelings stirred to the surface again. It got me to thinking. And with the thoughts evolved a plan. Since I have been teased mercilessly all my life for thinking everything is “symbolic”, I allowed myself to imagine having a bracelet singing on my wrist the songs of all the people I love. And so came my request.
One by one I untied those little boxes and smiled, wept and cheered for the little silver and gold symbols that would fit on the silver bracelet Dave also bought for me. Each person had thought of something that would represent them to me, so that I could in some way carry them with me always.
Every now and then, on a Sunday morning when I think enough to include jewelry in my wardrobe, I snap the hinge on my silver charm bracelet and shake my wrist down, letting the charms fall into places.
During Sacrament Meeting I I roll the little charms through my fingers, or show them to a child who has found a spot on my lap: a little silver pony from Annie, for whom I wrote the lullaby, Ride a Blue Pony; a Chinese symbol for Mother from my Hong Kong Kate; a painter’s palette from Sarah; ball bat from Johnny; the number 5 for my 5 sisters and the 5 Hour store; so many other deeply meaningful things: a writer’s pen made of pure gold, as well as a golden Grand Hotel from Mackinac Island where we honeymooned. The Washington DC Temple, a little silver mixer from my baking pal grandkids, as well as a silver Christmas bell and a rocking chair; a British sixpence, Mickey Mouse ears reminding me of our birthday trip to Disneyland that year. So many more. So many more my arm jingles and rings when I reach for my Young Women’s bag at Church, or lift my hand to write on the chalkboard. When my wrist plays its music I remember my 50th birthday. I'm old enough to have such fabulous memories distilled into symbolic tokens. How cool is that!? And when I remember, I feel the love going deeper…deeper…deeper into the place where only love can go. It may also be noted that I do not have to find a place to store so many sentimental things as I have in my basement. I have instead a small charmed cluster of memories dangling happily from my aging, fleshy wrist.
So I am not a Jr High maiden. Maybe a charm bracelet is a weird thing to want at my age. I don’t care if it is. I love having it, because I love those who gave it to me.