This Is How I Tell The Story of Us (or, Ode to My Pandora Bracelet) – What the Hell?

My mom started a Pandora bracelet. And I thought it was ridiculous. She had designated color sections and arranged things in perfect symmetry. I teased her about it and didn’t understand why she was texting me photos with her newest beads and charms and messages reaching heights of near-euphoria.

And then I was stuck in one of my writing ruts and couldn’t sleep, so I logged on to the site to pick the ugliest bead I could find, fully intending to send it to her with a snarky message. Yes, I’m that kind of daughter. Well… I ended up designing a bracelet for myself in two hours. I couldn’t stop. I had no idea there were so many options and colors and designs. And then I stopped myself and wondered if the taunts about my hypocrisy would be worth it. I decided they were, because I was able to combine two of my favorite things: jewelry and symbolism.

My first bracelet – yes, my first – turned into the story of us:

  • Serendipity – I met my husband on the third floor of our old high school one day when I was ranting and raving about the injustices the male teen population served on the female population and cornered him about something that I can’t even remember now. I just know that he listened to me without interrupting, nodded and said, “Yeah. You’re right,” and I walked away wondering who he was. I’d never seen him before in my life, and I wanted to see him again.
  • Purple bubbles – Purple is my favorite color, and it just so happened to be one of my high school colors. I loved that school and all that it stood for, and I had grown up loving purple and white because my parents graduated from there, my grandfather taught there, my great-uncle taught there, and everyone in town supported the Bobcats.
  • Football – Because of the support for the Bobcats, I attended every Friday night game from the time I was old enough to sit still. And then I came home from college to attend Friday night football games and meet that boy I had accosted in the hallway.
  • Car – That boy from the hallway started hanging out with my group of friends and we drove to dinner and movies and each other’s houses and the local doughnut shop. The night that boy became THE boy, we sat in my car in front of a friend’s house and talked nearly all night long.
  • Music note – Part of driving around with that boy was listening to the radio and guessing which artist was singing; I always guessed, and he always told me who it really was. Our friends realized we were an item when I dedicated a song to him on our favorite radio station. Cheesy, I know, but absolutely a crucial step in our relationship. From that point on, we filled our lives with concerts. Until our first child was born; now, I can’t remember the last concert we attended.
  • Green bubbles – While I was at college, that boy and I communicated through AOL Instant Messenger. (AIM was our lifeline.) My screen color was purple. His was green.
  • Queen bee – My college friends gave me the moniker, and it stuck for awhile. That boy was the first boy to make me feel like a queen, and we grew closer.
  • Flip flop – That boy cut school to come and see me at my summer job. And he smiled when he finally found me in a second-floor office, typing away on a computer. It was the first time I realized that I could make someone smile like that. Me.
  • S clip – My last name has always started with an “S.” Maiden name and married name. It allowed for a nice sense of continuity.
  • Snowflake – I don’t remember exactly how it started, but that boy and I talked about visiting the Alps. We knew we couldn’t afford it, so we sat in lawn chairs at the top of a mountain in knee-deep snow and looked at the stars until our bodies were numb. We took our very first picture together on top of that mountain.
  • Butterfly Garden – He said the first time he realized he loved me was the afternoon I took off my shoes and waded in a stream while we walked in the woods. We just so happened to come across a bevy of butterflies and I was in complete awe as they landed all over me. He didn’t tell me he loved me that day. He just knew.
  • Study books – In our next months together, I realized I wanted to be a teacher and transferred to a college closer to home that actually offered a teaching program. Then, I graduated and got my first teaching job. In the meantime, he was ready to drop out of college but I convinced him to stay and helped him study and write papers. He became the first college graduate in his family.
  • Golden star – He took me back to “the Alps” and proposed, under the stars, on a cold December night. I said yes and cried and didn’t even ask to see the ring; he laughed and showed it to me anyway.
  • Blue flowers – Our wedding colors were navy blue, white, and yellow. This bead has a blue background with white flowers that have yellow centers. Need I say more?
  • Everlasting Love – When we took those vows, we didn’t know they’d be tested so early in our marriage. We worked on our issues, we worked on us, and we are gearing up to celebrate our tenth anniversary.
  • Doghouse – I wanted to surprise him with a dog and nearly got a beagle. We were having a discussion about puppies the night I called and reserved one with a local, reputable breeder. When he randomly said he couldn’t stand to hear a beagle’s howl, I nearly had a conniption. I called the next morning and apologized to the breeder; we got our miniature Dachshund the next month. Chili Dog (ah, you just got the joke) was a loud, obnoxious little thing. We couldn’t have loved him more. We also bought a fixer-upper and worked on it for months before and after the wedding. Our blood, sweat, and tears were poured into that place; I enjoyed showing everyone who thought I had lost my mind when I purchased it that it actually did have the potential I had seen.
  • Clock – Then, we got stuck on the fertility roller coaster and couldn’t conceive. I wasn’t sure if we ever were going to have a baby, and every month of trying and waiting and being disappointed felt like it lasted a lifetime.
  • Cinnamon Ladybugs – It finally happened. We got pregnant and had our first little love bug. As soon as he was old enough to distinguish colors, he picked orange and hasn’t looked back. These orange bugs remind me of him every time I see them on my wrist.
  • House – We took the biggest leap of faith with our brand new little family when we decided to put our house on the market, move in with my parents, and build our dream home. It almost resulted in a divorce, at least a dozen times. If we thought we had poured our blood, sweat, and tears into the fixer-upper, we hadn’t seen anything yet. The house became an obsession and a labor of love and a point of contention; when it was finished, I cried and cried. I am never going through that again. Carry me out of here kicking and screaming when I become too senile to live on my own anymore, but I am not moving ever again. Ever.
  • Aqua/Green Swirly Swirl – We lived in our house for a month and a half before I realized I was pregnant with our second son. I was so sick during that pregnancy that I could only eat lettuce and cucumbers and drink water until my third trimester. He was born in May with an emerald birthstone, and he has loved to play in water nearly from his very first bath. This green and blue bead captures his essence in every way possible.
  • Song Bird – It only took nine years of teaching before I was able to teach my very most favorite novel, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. (Side note: If you never have read this book or only ever pretended to read it in high school, you are doing yourself a major disservice. Pick up a copy and read it. Your life will never be the same.) At the same time, I was starting to feel trapped by my classroom and teaching position. This bird in a cage fits nearly ever facet of the last three years of my teaching career.
  • Pink Butterfly Kisses – I am not a girly-girl. I don’t own much pink and you will find one dress in my closet. So, buying a bead by this name is so far out of my character that my mom thought I was nuts when I told her what I had purchased. This bead actually is purple. It features butterflies. And I bought it a week before I submitted my leave of absence request. A colleague told me to spread my wings and fly. And, that’s what I’m doing.

So, I have another addiction: Pandora bracelets. And, I’m already designing my fourth. What the Hell?

(Connect with me @baileyshawley or share this post on Facebook so your friends can see what you’ve been reading.)

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