Cheryl Parsons of Hixson, TN

It appears I'm a bit older than many of the previous winners of the “Story of Your Life,” but my 62 years make it very easy to choose 10 charms. There have been trials and tribulations, but I'm choosing charms to represent the happy moments of my life.

When I was younger, I had a little inexpensive charm bracelet, and I loved the tinkling sound that it made. In my generation, it seems as if our charm bracelets got cast aside as childish pieces of jewelry. Now, as I slide down the ramp to old age, I would like to put on a jingling charm bracelet to make myself heard over the isolating iPods, cell phone rings, and other electronic symphony of today's age, pleasantly letting everyone know that I'm here and I'm real. Listen, as the charms ring out some sounds of my life.

The charm that immediately caught my attention was the gumball machine (charm #8197). When I was a little girl, my father worked at an electric company. High up on the counter where the customers paid their bills was a gumball machine, one penny a ball. My favorite was licorice. When I came to the office to visit my dad, his boss would turn the machine upside down and shake it to manipulate all the colors so that black would be next in line when I put my shiny penny in. Can you hear the click of the dial as it turns, the slide of the ball to the end of the slot, and the plop as it falls from hand to mouth? Yummy!

My dancing teacher had studied in New York and brought wonderfully choreographed routines and beautiful costume ideas to the small town where I grew up. Of all the dances, my favorite was ballet, and I couldn't wait to get en pointe or, as we said in the South, to “take toe.” Finally, she felt that muscles had developed and technique had been honed, and I laced and tied the blush pink ribbons of those magnificent shoes. Eventually, dancing the twist in the 60s crowded out ballet, but when I found my old toe shoes up in my parents' attic 20 years later, I couldn't resist putting them on. Yes, they still fit, and, yes, I did manage to twirl across the floor. I can hear the voice of my dance teacher calling out those exotic French terms plié relevé, tour jeté--as I join the ballet slippers (charm #8286) to a link.

Then came college. I started out in business, but a dynamic biology teacher caused me to call my parents one night and announce that I was changing my major. I'm adding the microscope charm (charm #8207) to my bracelet for the wonderful knowledge of living things that I gained from that change and the classroom voices I hear as I remember my years spent teaching.

Next has to be a framed PhotoArt charm (charm #8614) of my husband, son, and me, smiling at the milestone of our son's college graduation. My husband and I married while we were in college, one of those “young” marriages that's not supposed to last. But here we are 44 years later, going strong. Can you hear a smile?

I'm not a very athletic person, but the one place I feel strong and fit is in the water. A friend laughed when I told him I heard strains of the old Righteous Brothers song, “Ebb Tide” when I swam underwater. In water, I can be fast, I can be graceful, and I can do somersaults and handstands. The swimmer charm (charm #6566) will be a collection of memories--the front for the freedom of movement that water allows and the back engraved with the date our son won the state swimming championship as a high-school senior.

Loving the water and living near a lake and a river has allowed me to be a little bit of a daredevil. At the late age of thirty, I learned to slalom water ski and jet ski. At ripe old age of 50, I learned to scull. I'll hear the wind whistling by as I speed across the water when I add a pair of crew oars (charm #3309) to the chain and a spiffy little jet ski (charm #6432).

My mother and father spent their first vacation after World War II in Daytona Beach, Florida. The little rooming house where they stayed was still there 50 years later. They took me to Florida for the first time when I was seven, and I fell in love with the ocean. I'll add a Florida charm (charm #4398) to remind me of a first kiss, a laughing group of teenagers learning to hully gully on the beach, trips to Disney World, and an annual group of returning vacation friends from many states and countries, first met with their children and now returning with their grandchildren. 

A parade of dogs and cats has scampered through our lives. At present, we are living with three very different cats--one who thinks she's a dog and eats leather shoestrings and rubber balls, one barn cat who decided the house was a much nicer place to live, and one, per the vet, “not obese, just pleasingly plump” senior citizen. Their purrs can be heard as I attach the charm of a playful cat (charm #8139).

Finally, I'll connect the tree of life (charm #0808) for my 10th charm. It's fitting for someone who now spends many hours researching her family tree. That retirement hobby has led to the discovery of many new cousins. It's a quiet hobby, only punctuated by the tapping of computer keys and occasional shouts of glee as I find a long-lost ancestor. This tree of life will represent the interconnectedness of all life on earth.

So there you have it. Maybe I'll add some bagpipes when I learn to play and a hot air balloon when I go aloft. You might just recognize me somewhere. As in Jenny Joseph's poem, “Warning,” I could be that old lady wearing purple with a red hat that doesn't match, and on my arm will be a charm bracelet, happily jingling my presence to all and reminding me to search for new adventures and memories to add to my bracelet every day!

Cheryl Parsons, Hixson, TN

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