Cleaning out a closet is not my favorite thing to do. My brother was coming into town and my task for the day was to begin to clean out a closet filled with old boxes from my past. I quickly began removing random items I had stashed over the years: pictures from young high school days, folded up love notes from my high school sweetheart, silver dollar coins the tooth fairy once left, X-ray films from my hip surgery, my 1st grade pencil box, a stuffed doll long forgotten….
I rummaged through some of the boxes I had pulled down, glancing at the contents to see if memories inside were worth keeping. A decent amount ended up in the donate or trash pile. Boxes with pictures and ones that were heavy were set aside, indicating a task for another day. I had cleared out almost everything and discovered a small wooden box in the very back of the closet on the upper shelf. It looked vaguely familiar after having been neglected for years. I picked it up and a fleeting thought raced across my mind. Could this be it? I slowly held the box and stepped down from my chair. I had just finished reading the fascinating book Blink and was hyper-conscious of my guttural feelings. I began to sweat and breathe shallow. I opened the box to find some random assortments of jewelry and two smaller jewelry boxes, one silver and one gold. The silver box looked too small. I hesitated to touch the gold.
There are rare moments where I just know. In that moment, I knew but was daring to believe. I didn’t want to open this small gold box, for fear that my heart palpitations were a sick systemic trick or that my hand shaking was a false adrenaline rush. I gently picked it up. Heavy. I shook it. The contents shifted only slightly, indicating it was dense. All these tactile responses were positive. I gently pried open the lid and realized that I had stopped breathing.
It. Was. There.
Surprise, utter excitement, shrilling scream, laughing joy don’t quite capture the moment.
My grandmother had begun a tri-generational tradition of collecting charms throughout her life that she proudly wore on a bracelet. My last memory of my charm bracelet was a vague recollection of leaving it at home, in a box, to have new charms added at our local jeweler–over 9 years ago. It wasn’t until it had been missing for a year or so that I began to realize it was gone. It wasn’t a piece of jewelry I wore often. I purposely left it at home when I began college because I was fearful it wouldn’t be safe in a dorm room. It was one of my two prized possessions. It was more than a single item, this bracelet was a story of my childhood, a story of my travels and accomplishments, a story of my family. It was me and it was lost. For years I refused to buy new charms, too distraught that mine had disappeared. Only in the past several years did I begin to purchase new ones, although they all remained in a small box. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a new chain. I had once made a list of all the charms I could remember and had spent hours online looking for replacements. I found many of them online but realized that a replacement just didn’t feel right. They were each dated keepsakes. In fact, two days before my discovery I had been talking with my mother and decided perhaps it was time to buy a new chain and start again.
As I stared down as this heavy golden box, I was overcome with how special this bracelet had been and still was to me. My grandmother has since past away and I felt a deep connection to her through this bracelet, her tradition. I sat on the floor and just held it in my hands. I just felt the weight of the silver, the contours of the shapes lumped together, the coolness. Flashes of my past returned with the same joy and intensity I had felt when I got each charm. More than a happy moment, I felt complete.