Is There Life After Retirement?

Love, Susan

Posted on: April 10, 2009

While rummaging through the estate sale booth – my favorite stop at the Lahaina Swap Meet/Craft Fair – a familiar item caught my eye.  The silver artist’s palette charm on the crowded table was exactly like the twin charms that Debbie Frantz’s mom bought us for Christmas in 1962, along with our brand new bracelets. It was the year we joyfully shared the same second grade home room, lived for all things Barbie, and saw ourselves as immensely talented artists-to-be.  With names from the opposite end of the alphabet, sharing a home room would only happen one more time in our twelve years together.   I wondered about the reasons and recipient behind the charm in front of me.

I reached for the sterling chain bracelet in order to further investigate.

Unlike my own bracelet now crowded with mementos that span more than half a lifetime, this one held only  six items.  In addition to the artist palette, there was a graduation owl with a pearl body, a flat mortarboard charm, a typewriter, an engraved disk and a slice of sterling birthday cake.  The mortarboard announced 1971 – only a year before the inscription on my own graduation charm.  The disk was inscribed with a name and date on one side:

Sandra – July 26, 1968, with a simple inscription on the back:

Love, Susan.

If she graduated in 1971, what was the significance of 1968?  The end of middle school?  An important birthday?  What could it be?

Sensing that folks were not-so-patiently waiting for me to move on, I checked the price of the bracelet.  Thirty-five dollars.    Not practical.  Returning the bracelet to its black velvet cubby, I stepped aside to dig through the section of art deco earrings.

But thoughts of the bracelet returned.  How might a personal keepsake end up on a swap meet table?  Is the owner deceased?  Or did it get lost in the rush of early twenties wanderlust, like the bracelet that  Jim gave me in the summer of  seventy-eight, his last night as Freedom’s lead singer?  And if she’s still alive, does Sandra think of her bracelet and long to hold it once again in hopes of reactivating the juju from a magic of her youth?

Or perhaps it’s just meaningless pieces of metal for which her interest ended in 1971; Owl and the gang tossed aside, never to be considered again.

Returning home later that afternoon, I dropped my handbag on the sofa and went immediately to the small wooden jewelry box on top of my bedroom dresser.  Opening a tiny drawer, I saw it right away – my own charm bracelet that began forty-seven years ago and continues to – though very occasionally – chronicle random bits of my life.

Exhaling an unexplanable degree of relief, I examined the nearly forgotten piece of jewelry.  The state outlines, the phone, the shiny OZ, even the Betty Crocker Homemaker Award (the most “Wrong Call” accolade of Senior Awards Day, I sheepishly admit) and yes…the artist palette.  All safe and securely attached to the sturdy silver chain.

I smiled as I held the most recent addition up to the waning sunlight.  I designed three of them that year  – one for me and one for each of my Debbies – tiny containers filled with bits of slag, the meaning of which could only be understood by those who grew up in steel mill country.  Carefully returning it to its place of honor next to the gold Hawaiian bracelets inscribed with the names of my son and step sons,  I gently touched the jewelry box – itself a high school graduation present – and left the room.

Thirty-five dollars is nothing to be taken lightly this year, particularly for something that I would never use, wear or display.   Had I bought that bracelet, it would have gone straight into that bottom drawer, with my own unworn treasures of the past.  Not a practical purchase at all.


If I return to the Craft Fair next week and if I have an extra thirty five bucks and if it’s still there, I will probably buy it.

I feel like I owe it to Sandra and Susan.

charm bracelet

1 Response to "Love, Susan"

So precious, these memories!

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