Mother’s silver charm bracelet began as a “grandma bracelet,” with charms engraved with the names and birth dates of her six grandchildren. Some are profiles of a little girl or boy; others are plain silver discs. Next Mother added a charm for me and one for my brother, Art. After decades of marriage, she got a new diamond wedding ring, and added her original slim silver ring to the bracelet.
A tiny silver pig dangles from the bracelet – a tribute to my father’s many years with the Hormel Company. There is also a charm from Portugal. I have no idea what its significance is other than knowing that my parents once took a trip to Portugal. Eventually, Mother added charms for her great-grandchildren. She wore the bracelet for special family occasions, and she always wore it on Mother’s Day.
After my mother died, Art and I made plans to meet at her home, to distribute her belongings. Mother had lived in California. Art and his wife, Joan, flew in from Minnesota. Carl and I planned to drive our pickup from Washington so that I could bring home a small chest of drawers, the only item my mother had which had belonged to HER mother. I also wanted to keep Mother’s “every day” dishes, the Spode Buttercup pattern which I had always loved. Her “good” dishes were white Haviland that had originally belonged to my dad’s mother.
As I left the house to make that sad journey, I fell and broke my ankle. Five hours, X-rays, and a cast later, I went home with instructions to keep the ankle elevated for a couple of days. As a polio survivor, I didn’t have enough arm strength to use crutches, so I was in a wheelchair for several weeks. I was unable to get in or out of the chair without Carl’s assistance. Travel was impossible. Mother had sold her condo before she died and it needed to be emptied for the buyers, so Art and Joan sorted through Mother’s things without us.
Art arranged to ship the chest of drawers and the Buttercup to me. I tried to think what else I might want to keep. Mother and I had different tastes. She was an elegant, stylish woman; I’m a “country girl,” most comfortable in jeans. Our homes reflected our personalities. I didn’t want any other furniture; her clothes didn’t fit me. Art called several times to ask about specific items that he thought I might want. The Haviland went to my daughter, Anne, but we gave most of the household goods to the Salvation Army.
On Mother’s Day the following year, I remembered the bracelet. Why hadn’t I thought to ask for that? When Art had called to describe Mother’s jewelry, in case I wanted any of it, he hadn’t mentioned the bracelet. I hoped Joan or one of their daughters had taken it, but when I inquired, Art said no, he didn’t remember seeing it. We assumed it had somehow been overlooked and ended up in a Salvation Army thrift store. My heart ached at the thought.
More than a year after Mother’s death, I received a FedEx package from a jewelry store in Burlingame, Calif. When I opened it, I recognized the oblong grey jewelry box, and my eyes filled with tears. Nestled inside the box was Mother’s charm bracelet! A note from the jeweler explained that she had brought it in to have a charm added for the latest great-grandchild, but she had never returned to get the bracelet. When he tried to call her, he learned that the phone had been disconnected.
“She was a lovely lady,” he wrote, “and I know this bracelet meant a lot to her.” He had looked through his records until he found another customer who lived in the same condo complex as my mother. When he called that woman, she told him what had happened, and he explained about the bracelet.
She knew my name, found my address, went to the jewelry store, and paid for the new charm. The jeweler sent Mother’s bracelet to me.
Each year on Mother’s Day, when I remove the precious bracelet from its box and fasten it around my wrist, I not only remember my mother, but I silently thank her neighbor and the jeweler, two generous people who took the time to return a family heirloom to someone they did not know.