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charm school

Okay, raise your hand if you remember those old-school charm bracelets. To me they seemed the accessory of choice for those perfect, suburban TV moms of a past era — think June Cleaver of Leave it to Beaver fame — women who vacuumed in pearls and heels, who had dinner on the table each night at six sharp for their ideal, if somewhat unevolved, husbands and adorably impish kids, who never had a hair out of place. These were the women who seemed to live charmed lives (hey, it was the suburbs in the late 1950s) and, therefore, wore the bracelets to match.

But those ubiquitous accessories were worn by more than those TV icons of the day. My mom and her friends wore them with pride and panache whenever a dress-up occasion came along.

My mother’s charm bracelet was something to behold. Milestone birthdays and anniversaries called for charms, and my father gifted her with them. Then there were the charms from each state they had visited — a wrist full of colorful New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, shapes jangling with every move of her hand. There were the charms to mark the birth of my brother and me; the “just-because” gold heart; the of-the-time, diamond-accented sunburst celebrating another life moment. 

My mom so loved her charm bracelet that she started me with one of my own when I was about 12 or so. It had just a couple of charms at the time, but it grew to include sweet-sixteen mementos, a piano, a seashell, a locket, and more. But the bracelet was never something I really cared for or enjoyed wearing — its weight, its noise, and its very “jewelry-ness” bothered me — so, for the most part, it stayed in its box.

Charm can be a fleeting thing, I discovered one day. To wit:

My mom would soak her bracelet every so often in a jar of liquid jewelry cleaner. On that particular day, I came across the jar of cleaner on the kitchen counter. Noticing that the liquid inside looked dirty, I assumed that she had removed her now-clean bracelet from it and — yes, you guessed it — I threw the jar out. Only it wasn’t empty. Uh-oh.

The mistake wasn’t noticed until the next morning, well after the trash had been picked up from the curb. Too late to recover a lifetime of charmed moments caught in gold.

Oy. To say that I felt awful would be a huge understatement. While insurance covered the monetary loss, my mother never replaced the charms — I guess it had something to do with collecting each charm at a particular moment of her life.

At some point, over the years and the miles from east coast to west, I lost track of my largely unworn charm bracelet.

But one day, while looking through a drawer, I came upon a surprise — one charm that I had, apparently, saved. It had been a gift from my parents when I graduated high school. Something to mark the beginnings of my talents. Of all the charms that used to be on that bracelet, this is the one that has held its meaning, fulfilled its promise, and stayed with me all these years.

A tiny gold typewriter.

Charmed, I’m sure.

© 2020 Claudia Grossman

One comment on “charm school

  1. I remember it well, mine is somewhere in a drawer. I really should track it down. Thanks

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