As a child, my grandmother was someone I looked up to. I mean this less in the literal sense. Her arrivals at the front door were a cause for celebration. I would leap into her open arms as a large smile appeared across her face, before a warm giggle bellowed out of her chest. Grandma June was more than just a loving grandmother, she was a visual spectacle. Her hair was always freshly curled, her rose lipstick was flawlessly applied without fail, and her nails were constantly changing colours. Each visit meant an outfit more vibrant than the last. Every aspect about her was captivating. Yet, what fascinated me the most was her vast jewelry collection.
Jewels covered her body, stretching from her ears to her fingers, forever matching. My favourite piece, one which she always wore, was her golden charm bracelet. The chain, composed of oval-shaped rings alternating between smooth and rigid textures, barely fit around her wrist. The entire time she had the bracelet only two charms ever hung from the chain. One is a ballerina shoe with a hollowed center, ready for a foot to be placed inside, with small engravings on the side similar to embroidery. On the tip sits a dainty rose-coloured gem. The other is a wishing-well, with a triangular roof which has markings that resemble wood. Underneath lies the spindle attached to a handle that pokes outward (which can painfully prick your hand). Both stand atop the circular brick well.
I often look back on the times I spent with her in the living room of her bed and breakfast in Tsawwassen. There we sat on cushions, on opposing sides of the glass coffee table. She would stare into my eyes, waiting to tell me to ‘go-fish,’ as I stared at the golden chain around her wrist. Our visits would pass as we played cards. Although, most of my time was spent watching as her bracelet slid up and down her arm. The games ended when it was time for dinner. Grandma June always made my favourite dish, Annie’s macaroni and cheese. I would stand in the corner of the kitchen as she stirred the pasta profusely while the charms swayed. Once dinner was over, it was time for bed. With a happy stomach, I would climb into one of the twin beds in the upstairs bedroom. Tucking me in, she would kiss me on the forehead and gently brush her hand across my face. The dancer’s shoe always ran down my cheek.
These visits lasted for most of my childhood, until she became sick. The dementia meant that everything about her withered away; she was a body with no soul. The last years of her life were spent in hospitals and care homes. She no longer had the capability to maintain her appearance, including putting on her jewelry. The bracelet vanished while she was sick. In fact, I nearly forgot about it.
This was until my aunt (the executor of Grandma June’s will) gave it to me. This was somewhat surprising, yet heartwarming as that meant she took note of my silent fascination. My aunt grinned, and placed a small gift-wrapped box in my hand, as if it was something I should be excited to have. I was. However, the circumstances were far from ideal. I smiled looking down at the gold bracelet in my hands, my eyes watering and my lips softly trembling. I struggled to put it on, resorting to Auntie Shelly for help. It didn’t fit properly at first, the chain almost slipped off my tiny wrist. It was initially cold to the touch, but it warmed as it spent more time around my arm. The golden chain glimmered against the light; I appreciated this new perspective I had of it, as I became used to observing it from a far. The charms jingled, as it slid down my arm, reminding me of her.
As time went on, I began wearing it every day. Mostly because I also enjoyed watching others ogle over it as I had. No matter where, to school, to dance, to bed, I never took it off. One day, a few of my friends and I went swimming in my building’s pool. Even though I had not removed Grandma June’s bracelet, I felt I should (the chlorine concerned me). Hesitantly, I placed it carefully next to my towel on the ground. We splashed around playing Marco Polo, and held diving competitions until the pool closed. While returning home, out of force of habit, I shook my left arm to fix the positioning of the golden bracelet. But I felt nothing move, I heard no chiming. My breathing quickly increased, as my cheeks became hot. I wracked my brain, only to recall that I had taken it off before swimming. I rushed out the back door, wearing my bathing suit and my hair still soaking wet. Fear inhabited my body while I ran to the front desk to beg to be let into the pool. It was less about the idea of losing the actual bracelet. In that moment I realized that the charm bracelet was so much more than a piece of jewelry. For, the oval-shaped rings link together more than just the chain, they link me to my grandmother; it tethers my memories of Grandma June to my life. Thankfully, the concierge allowed me to retrieve it, and feeling of calmness flooded back into my body.
That moment of fear and worry that I might have lost the only thing my grandmother left me made me realize the extent to which I cherish the bracelet. Of course, there are times when it aggravates me, catching on my clothes, poking into my hand, or loudly dragging across the table as I am writing, and I end up tucking it away for a while. But after enough time, I find myself wanting to put it back on. Sometimes it’s just an accessory made of shiny metal, and other times it strikes me that with just a glance, I feel her warmth, hear her giggles, see her smile, sense her spirit.
It’s strange to look back, as I spent so much time obsessing over her shiny accessories which easily took my attention away, rather than focusing on my visits with her. I wish so much that I was more present. Alas, I cannot change my childish fascinations.
Now, however, I wear it not for its appearance, but for the sentimental value it has. It’s funny having my own collection of jewelry, as the bracelet might not be the most unique piece of mine. Some might even consider it worn, as the back of the ballet shoe is dented. But I know that my grandmother gifted it to me, which makes it invaluable. After all, it’s comforting to look down and see her rose-coloured lipstick within the gem that sits upon the tip of the dancer’s shoe.
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