What is it that makes charm bracelets so, well, charming? The act of collecting the charms? Or perhaps the memories dangling there on? For some maybe it’s getting drawn in to each little piece. The charms are small, so you have to focus and become one with them. It’s a diversion from the outside world. They aren’t attached to anything digital and they don’t plug in.
Charms, or amulets, have been around since humans figured out how to put a shell, rock, or piece of wood on a string. Mine are from my childhood growing up in Germany. I was lucky, having adventurous parents and a mother that liked to buy us things. My parents started 3 bracelets each for my sister and me: coins, enamel on sterling crests, and icons like the Eiffel Tower or a delft wooden shoe from Holland.
I like to wear mine. I like the jingling, except that as a child I stuck a piece of tape inside the little bell acquired in Garmisch because it was too loud. The tape is still in there. I don’t want to annoy those around me after all. Each time we acquired one we’d bring it home and my dad would solder it on our bracelet. I like to look at my charms. There is a memory in each piece.
There’s the coin bracelet. Most of the currencies have now been replaced with the Euro. When I was a kid it was second nature to me to think in multiple currencies. I always had at least 2 in my pocket. And when we were traveling, 3 or 4 or even 5. (This is before everyone had credit cards.) Looking at the Dutch guilder reminds me of our trips to Holland – my favorite place when I was a kid. The Austrian schilling reminds me of all the times we skied the Alps.
The icon bracelet (turns out it’s hard to photograph shiny things with a phone camera) has 2 from Paris, a Berlin bear, a gondola from Venice and a matador from Spain among others. We have a storied history with Spain in my family. When we first tried to visit in about 1967, our little red VW wagon was totaled the night before our trip when a drunk driver plowed in to it in front of our house. We canceled our trip. My dad was the first that got to go, in 1972 for a skeet shoot. We had just moved back to Germany for our second trip and hadn’t unpacked yet. My dad found his guns and took off with a friend for Spain. My mom was furious and my dad didn’t even shoot well. He came home with a “participants” mug, which I later broke while trying to climb in the kitchen window one day when I’d locked myself out of the house. Spain wasn’t faring too well for us. But my sister got to go on a school trip when she was in the 11th grade. I’m pretty sure she had a good time. (30-some kids, a couple chaperones… who wouldn’t have fun.)
I finally went to Spain in 1995. So now we’ve all been there except my mom. She’d love it, I hope she gets to go someday.
I acquired the gondola from Venice on a 10th grade school trip. We had fun on those trips. There usually weren’t very many adults and we were given free rein a lot of the time. Venice is the first place I got tipsy – eating pizza and drinking wine with my friend Michele next to a canal. We giggled and commented that sitting near the water was making us dizzy. I also got pooped on by a pigeon that was sitting on my head for the obligatory photograph in St. Mark’s Square.
The icon bracelet is the only one I’ve added to as an adult. NY, Washington D.C., Mt. Rushmore, and a road runner that my grandma Mary bought when she was in Texas for my parents’ wedding.
My most laden bracelet though is the crest one. My hometown, Pirmasens, is right in the middle. There’s Kaiserslautern, where my sister and I played in the woods on many weekends while my parents shot skeet. Denmark, I was so young when we went there I barely remember anything. And Amsterdam; our first of several trips. On that first trip, I remember we couldn’t find a place to stay and ended up at the Hotel Krasnapolsky. It was beyond our budget and took way more of my dad’s cash then one night should have. The next morning my mom told us to eat as much as we could because we’d paid a lot for it. Budgeting your money was important when you traveled back then. We didn’t have credit cards and you needed to save enough cash, in the right currency, to get home or to get out of an emergency.
As I said, I love my charm bracelets. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them.