23: Mother’s Bracelet

23: Mother’s Bracelet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Mother’s Bracelet

When I was young, I admired clever people.
Now that I am old, I admire kind people.

~Abraham Joshua Heschel

My mother’s silver charm bracelet began as a “grandma bracelet,” with charms engraved with the names and birthdates of her six grandchildren. Some are profiles of a little girl or boy; others are plain silver discs. Then 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 my parents had once taken a trip to Portugal. Eventually, one at a time, charms were added for her 11 great-grandchildren. Mother wore this bracelet often 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 all of her belongings. Mother had lived in Burlingame, California. Art and his wife, Joan, flew in from Minnesota. My husband, Carl, and I planned to drive our pickup from Washington so that I could bring home Mother’s Spode Buttercup dishes, which I had always loved, and a small chest of drawers—the only item my mother had which had belonged to HER mother.

As I walked out of the house to make that sad journey, I fell and broke my ankle. Hours later, after getting a cast, I left the hospital in a wheelchair with instructions to keep the ankle elevated for several days. Because of post-polio syndrome, I was unable to get in and out of the wheelchair without Carl’s assistance. Travel was impossible.

Mother’s condo had been sold, and we needed to empty it for the buyers, so Art and Joan sorted through Mother’s things without us. I wanted so badly to be there.

Art arranged to ship the chest of drawers and Mother’s china to me. I tried to think what else I might want to keep but I was grieving for my mother and in pain from the ankle. My mind wasn’t functioning in high gear, and I couldn’t think of anything specific. Mother and I had different styles; she was an elegant, stylish woman. I’m a “country girl,” and our homes reflected our personalities. I didn’t need any furniture; her clothes didn’t fit me. Art called several times to ask about small items that he thought I might want but, in the end, we gave most of the household to the Salvation Army.

On Mother’s Day the following year, I remembered the silver 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 had taken it, but when I asked, Art said no, he didn’t remember seeing it. I was heartsick to think Mother’s treasured bracelet had somehow been overlooked and ended up in a Salvation Army thrift store.

That summer, more than a year after Mother’s death, I received a package from a jewelry store in Burlingame. The package was insured; I had to sign for it. I couldn’t imagine what it might contain. When I opened the box, my eyes filled with tears. Mother’s charm bracelet was nestled in the same container, lined with gray velvet, that she had always kept it in!

A note from the jeweler explained that Mother had brought the bracelet in to have a new charm added for her latest great-grandchild, but she had never returned to get it. When he had tried to call her, the phone had been disconnected.

“She was a lovely lady,” he wrote, “and I knew this bracelet was a family heirloom.” He had searched through his records until he found another customer who lived in the same condominium building as my mother. He called her, explained about the bracelet, and asked if she knew how to contact anyone in my mother’s family. She didn’t, but she talked to the building manager, and got my name and address. She then went to the jewelry store, paid for the new charm, and gave the jeweler my information. He shipped Mother’s bracelet to me.

Each year on Mother’s Day, as I fasten the silver bracelet around my wrist, I not only remember my dear mother, but I thank two generous people who made the effort to return a cherished family treasure to someone they had never met.

~Peg Kehret

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