Whenever I dress in my Sunday finest, the last touch is to clasp my charm bracelet onto my arm before I head out the door. Though it’s not a childhood amulet, the 33 charms that hang on it define my life. There is the Moravian Star for the short, happy months we lived in Winston-Salem, the Eiffel Tower from my last trip to Paris, a Tar Heel for my alma mater, an Adirondack chair from a special trip to Maine.
I’ve bought many charms myself, but I treasure the ones given to me by my children. The starfish, acorn and oak leaf from my daughter – reminders of our shared love of the beach and the seven years she and her brother spent on the campus of Elon University. (One year they overlapped.)
The day before my son married two weeks ago now, I pulled the bracelet from my jewelry box, fingering the charms, searching for the ones he had given to me.
Typewriters (two); a rolling pin (for my yeast rolls); a ship’s wheel (for Fortune’s Fool, our sailboat); a guitar (for all the times I sat at the bottom of the stairs, secretly listening to him play; sailboat; wine cork, camera. A few years ago, knowing I likely wouldn’t wear the Eagle Scout mother’s pin he gave me when he earned the award, I had it made into a charm, a reminder of his hard work – and ours in supporting him.
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Though I hadn’t prepared a toast for his new bride, I sat at the luncheon honoring her, the charms on my arm, pulling pictures from my head of the boy who, when I misplaced it once a few years ago, knew exactly where to find it.
At the end of the luncheon, I stood, rambling about when I asked him if he’d gotten her flowers for their first Valentine’s Day and he said they weren’t much into that kind of thing. But on the Day he called to tell me that he actually did get her something – a refurbished bike found broken in the back yard of the house he bought in November. My ramble ended with how he must have been paying attention all those times I’d admonished him to give the gift only he could give.
As expected, I became the puddle I am known for, talking about this boy who somehow grew into a man who does that kind of thing, who takes his mother to see “The Lion King” and who puts up with me when I write about him in the newspaper or when I post embarrassing pictures of him on Facebook in the days before he is to become a husband. Who thinks ahead about what he can give his new girlfriend that will matter.
The charms are links between us reminding me of all we have in common, though he would say we are nothing alike. We are both storytellers; his typewriter is a camera. I love to make my rolls and he to eat the dough remnants. The last time I made them, he popped the the leftover dough into his mouth like he did as a boy.
I put off writing a note to Graham on the day of the wedding, but I found a stolen moment to write about the gifts only he has given me.
“Your growing into a man of wit, wisdom and integrity is an immeasurable gift to me,” I wrote. “I do take some credit, but you have always been your own man, of that I am quite proud. But your best gift to date was bringing Grace into our lives.”
That afternoon, as we checked off items on the five-page itinerary created by the wedding planner, it was time for the gift exchanges with his groomsmen and with me.
The guys opened bobble-head bottle openers that looked (mostly) like each one of them, my husband’s so much so that I half expected it to growl.
My charm count grew by two that day: church bells – miniatures of those that would ring the wedding peal later that afternoon – and a bride and groom in full clutch, just as Graham would be with Grace when they turned to face the congregation as man and wife.
Somehow I kept the tears at bay.
They were charming. Surely charmed.
Susan Byrum Rountree is now mother to four delightful young people, one dog and two granddogs, and a wrist full of charms. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and blogs at writemuch.blogspot.com.