Charm Bracelets: Road Map to a Life

Emilie's High School Charm Bracelet

Emilie’s High School Charm Bracelet

There I was in a shop on State Street in Santa Barbara, wandering through stacks of items old and new. In a display case I noticed a charm bracelet, replete with dozens of charms, so thick with them, in fact, that I felt I was looking at the story of someone’s life. Why was the bracelet there instead of in the owner’s jewelry box or that of a daughter’s or niece’s? If I asked the clerk behind the counter to let me hold it, what would I learn about the woman who had so thoroughly filled it? Could I actually trace her using the charms as clues?

Could I actually trace her?

That’s how novels get their start.  I fiddled with that notion for days, imagining how I might use it, wondering if the idea was plausible. When I got home from my trip I dug out my own charm bracelet, last added to in my senior year of high school. It wasn’t nearly as informative as the one in California, but looking at it even a stranger would see that I had liked music, most notably the piano, that I liked horses, too, had graduated from a high school with the intials BCHS and gold and white colors, was a member of the National Honor Society, and even that I had been a hospital volunteer.


You can guess the rest. My newest novel came from that shop in Santa Barbara straight to your bookshelf, with a pesky year of writing in between. If you’ve already read Somewhere Between Luck and Trust , you’ll recognize the importance of a charm bracelet to the story, and perhaps, even the hospital pin–which is still being marketed, I discovered. A bracelet like the one I saw in the display case makes all the difference in the life of a woman named Georgia Ferguson.

I have wonderful readers. When I asked them to send me photos of their charm bracelets with something about them, I received three to share. If you would like to send photos of yours with comments, we’ll do a second installment. You can email me at my website under “Get In Touch” at the top.

From Kay Myhrman-Toso a wonderful recap:

Kay's charm bracelet complete with gift box

Kay’s charm bracelet complete with gift box

I doubt anyone could piece together my life from the charms on my bracelet, even if a Lucas or a Christy unleashed their powers of reasoning and observation. My charm bracelet was started in 1966 as a gift from my aunt and cousin, on the occasion of my confirmation, hence the cross as the first charm. That was followed by charms representing a dog, “Sweet 16”, graduation cap, and National Honor Society. Of those, my life-long love of dogs and learning (NHS) are probably the clearest link to my present self.

This bracelet has resided in its department store glossy pink-topped and black-bottomed box since that last charm was added and I went off to college, fall of 1969. I think this says much about the times: the Vietnam War, Kent State, Watergate, rising feminism – “Women’s Lib”, and increasing environmental awareness – remember the Cuyahoga River fire? – did not seem in sync with displaying a wrist full of charms.”

Leigh's "new" charm bracelet.  She says she has an older one, too.

Leigh’s “new” charm bracelet. She says she has an older one, too.

My writing friend Leigh Shaheen said this:

“My Pandoras are the story of my life since 2001. That’s when my grandson Evan was born, and that’s when I started collecting Pandora charms. I have one for each of my eight grandchildren, and others from highlights of my life.

My littlest grandchildren love to have me tell the story of every single charm. They get especially excited when I come to “Their” charms. I think they feel cherished that I wear these little symbols of them every single day.

I know I feel especially blessed every time I look at them.”

And finally, all the way from Australia, a reader with a bracelet so brimming with charms, she sent me two photos.

Half of Josie's wonderful charms.

Half of Josie’s wonderful charms.

Josie Valese said:  “There are 51 charms on my bracelet and they each have a story. The story I like to tell the most is when I took the ships wheel to my jeweler to be attached to the bracelet I was very excited at my purchase only to be told that it was not gold. As you can imagine I was disappointed!

And the other half.

And the other half.

Several months later my mother was at a garage sale and purchased a lot of matted together jewelry for $60.00, and in the middle of it was the war mine and the charm that is a moon with a star in the middle. So, off to my jeweler again I go, thinking these are probably not gold either – and to my delight he told me that not only are they gold but the stones are semi precious and both of them worth much more than $60.00.”

Charm bracelets tell many stories, don’t they? Thanks to everyone who told us theirs.  Now we’ll be waiting to hear yours.


  1. sandra pipitone on July 20, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    Just finish Love -Trust I want to visit with the Goddesses or help At Goddess House LOVE it!

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