Looking closely at photos of my childhood, you can see them. My hair goes from nonexistent, to long, to the addition of physics defying teased-within-an-inch-of-their-lives bangs and eventually to a horrifically regrettable short lived love affair with those white-girl cornrow twists that Britney and Xtina made us believe were okay. (I shudder just thinking of this period.) Teeth come in, fall out, grow in crooked and stay that way while my fashion (though on point for the times) seems to go from bad to worse. But photo after photo, despite all the differences, the two sterling silver bangles dangle from my left wrist.
I’m not sure how old I was before I even considered the fact that they could come off. Not that I wanted them to. It stands to reason, having worn them all my life that they were as much a part of me as any non-body part could be. They wrapped around my wrist like a metallic lovey disguised as jewelry.
I don’t recall when I took them off for good, but occasionally after I started high school, I’d tuck them away for awhile. It felt strange at first. In a moment of forgetful panic, I’d grab my naked wrist as my heart dropped into my guts before remembering they were safe in my wooden jewelry box. Eventually I’d retrieve them and return them to my left wrist where they belonged. More than the weight and look of them, it was the sound that I missed. The familiar clink that came from them sliding together was a reminder to myself that I was there.
The summer before my senior year of high school, I got a job as a lifeguard at a waterpark 25 minutes away from home. None of my friends worked there which presented me, for the first time in my teenage years, an opportunity to be who I said I was. I tucked the bracelets away. My new friends partied hard and I ignored the voice that bitched at me over the silence of my empty wrist. “This isn’t who you are. Midnight quests to the darkened ice cream stand for a bag of shrooms you have no fucking intention of consuming from some miscreants who are too old to be fraternizing with teenage girls? Sounds fun. Or NOT AT ALL.”
It wasn’t long before I put the bracelets back on and spent time with my old friends.
The next few years are not ones I look back on fondly, yet they may be some that I am most thankful for. They taught me self reliance and provided just enough tragedy and dysfunction to give me a story I can tell with humor. They made me vegan for a couple years because Weight Watchers kicks you out if you lose too much weight, but there are few interventions staged for obsessing over your diet in the name of animal rights. They were the flapping wings of the butterfly that set off the alarm which was set to ring at Fuckthisshit O’clock. I packed my life into the back of a U-haul and headed north to Vermont. I don’t remember making the decision consciously, but the bracelets stayed behind.
Nearly a decade later, my daughter was born. I was so blinded by my (surprising to me) affinity for big ass head bows that I over looked the jewelry angle entirely. It wasn’t until she was about 5 months old that my mother called to tell me she had found my bracelets and would send them to me. To be honest, by then, I had no idea that they weren’t tucked in my jewelry box all those years.
When they arrived, I carefully unwrapped them from the tissue paper, the clink so familiar it barely registered as a sound. As I slipped them onto my daughter’s left wrist, I noticed the inscription of my name and birthday and wondered if something so completely ME could instead be her.
They could. They ARE.
And now it’s the movement of her arm that clinks. It reminds me of the past but keeps me rooted in the present. I hear it as she tosses in her bed when the covers get too hot. It tells me she’s just on the other side of the aisle when she wanders away at the library.
She never asks to take them off. I sometimes wonder if she knows they can. As she gets older, I know there will come a day they’ll get tucked into her wooden jewelry box. I’ll hope she can hear her voice in the silence.