I picked up the magazine that arrived earlier in the day, grateful for the way the wooden kitchen chair welcomed my tired body. Hoping for a respite from the avalanche of emotional discord that arrived a few days earlier, I turned the cover and entered the world of perfectly prepared meals, stylishly dressed women and homes beautifully decorated.
Turning the pages, I discovered an article on charm bracelets that shot like an arrow to a place of sweet remembrance from my teenage years. Those days didn't contain a lot of fun, pleasure or identification with peers; re-connecting with such positive experiences encouraged me for many days.
Charm bracelets were popular with teenagers during the sixties. One day I went to a local department store and purchased a silver charm bracelet that eventually would hold and record the memories, interests, travels, dreams and visions of my high school years. The charm bracelet became a journal that I wore around my wrist, that came with me everywhere; a steady companion in the tumult of my life at home.
I didn't have many opportunities to earn money when I was in high school. An occasional babysitting job at fifty cents an hour only netted two or three dollars for an evening's efforts. Consequently, with charms ranging from three to twenty-five dollars, I had to save for many months to afford a permanent representation of a rite of passage or special event.
Living within five blocks of a mall, I often walked to the store to look in the cases containing the charms or twirl the turn styles laden with charms. I had a mental list of charms I wanted to buy. Anticipating and planning for the next purchase offered excitement to my days.
Stories About Charms
Some charms had to wait for an event. For example, only after I turned 16 did I add the silver number resting in the middle of two circles. The stoplight charm came after I passed my driving test when I was seventeen. Although I was on the high school girl's basketball team for two years, I waited until I scored some points before I added a basketball. The diploma charm was a graduation gift. I bought the silver numbers of the year I graduated with gift money.
Other charms reflected my interests at the time; a swimmer for the three summers I taught swim lessons at a local pool; a musical note and saxophone for playing in the band; a typewriter for my years as editor of the school newspaper.
When I traveled with my family, charms were available in gas stations gift shops for one or two dollars. I acquired the state of New York when I visited the place of my birth, the Statue of Liberty when we went to New York City, and the lobster pot and crab came during our time in Maine.
A Favorite Piece of Jewelry
I wore my bracelet every day, as did most of my friends. We discussed our charms and shared additions with squeals of delight. The clang of the bracelet as charms banged against each other with arm and hand movements added "music" to accompany my days.
I purchased a gold bracelet shortly after I graduated from high school to hold charms from my college experience; Dumbo the elephant came from a 1968 visit to Disneyland when my college team, Ohio State, played in the Rose Bowl; a turtle, the symbol of my sorority, Delta Zeta; the seal of my sorority made into a charm from a pin; and a brightly colored hex symbol seen on a barn purchased in Pennsylvania Dutch country. When I asked the lady at the store what the sign meant, she said, "Good luck for marriage." My single, recently-graduated-from-college self, placed that charm with hopes for a sweet young man in my future.
Although I received a small, maroon diary for Christmas when I was in the eighth grade, I didn't know how to record my thoughts or make notations for daily events. Back then, in 1963, journals didn't come with guidelines or instructions to stimulate word and expression. The charm bracelet, however, gave me a way to picture and record my high school and college experiences. My two bracelets were a "visible diary" of sorts not containing anything private except the thoughts that I carried with each charm.