Someone who knows you well gave you a charm bracelet for Christmas. Charm bracelets are hard to find. They stay in families; they’re passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter. They disappear quickly from eBay and estate sales. You never see them at garage sales.
You see your grandmother’s old charm bracelet around your sister Oatie’s neck. She turned it into a necklace, and you can stare at those charms forever, remembering the stories your grandmother told about each one.
Now you have this one. You have no idea who it belonged to, and neither does the one you love who gave it to you. It was found after much searching, in a faraway place reached after a long journey on dark and icy winter roads.
You keep the charm bracelet on your desk, below the wall with all the taped-up photos and quotes and and the postcard that reads When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?
Every day you pick it up, holding it in the palm of your hand, surprised anew by its weight. You don’t know who originally wore this charm bracelet, but you know some things about her life. She was a girl who came of age in the 40’s, you’re guessing. The 40’s are your favorite clothing era. How often you have looked at photos from that decade, and fingered dresses and skirts in vintage stores, and felt that you were born into the wrong clothing age.
She loved to travel, this far-away girl. It looks as if she made a trans-Atlantic ocean voyage to tour Europe. She began in New York, where she saw the Statue of Liberty. And then she sailed – twice, if the charm bracelet tells the true story – across the sea to London, where she saw Big Ben and lots of theater.
She had a roadster. You imagine her with a scarf tied around her neck, sailing around country roads on trips out of the city, a picnic basket in the backseat and her friends next to her, laughing.
She danced, and she ice-skated, and she even golfed. That you don’t understand – golf? it just doesn’t make any sense to you – but then you remind yourself that this isn’t your life. It was her life.
She rode horses, and if the charm bracelet doesn’t lie, she also was a good riflewoman. She got married in a church. You hope she was crazy about the man she married, and you hope she loved her firstborn, represented by that tiny baby shoe.
And she had a woodstove. Does that mean she had a cabin? She liked to camp? She was an outdoor girl who loved the country, like you? Again you remind herself that this bracelet is about her, not you.
Hello, faraway charm girl. Did you love your life?
Beautiful job. You have slipped me into a parallel universe where I am watching someone trying to reconstruct my life–except that I’m still here. Let’s face it, even Einstein didn’t have the final answer on time, so why should we? Here and not here, ice skating and golf, horses and woodstoves. Life’s a charm.