Justine Talaie of Madison Heights, MI

A Charmed Friendship

In the twenty-two years I have lived on this planet, it would be impossible to sum that life up in just ten charms. I started this story hours and hours ago and now I believe I have finally found a way to describe my life through these ten charms. My bracelet now looks nothing like the one I originally envisioned. My charms are about the friendships I've had throughout my life. Some of these friendships started out strong but slowly faded over the years; others have been strong and steady my entire life.

The first friendship I formed was with my next door neighbor, Johnny. He was born just six months after me but I always looked to him as a big brother. As young children we would play in cardboard boxes that became our house, a boat, a car. As pre-teens, we would lay on the front lawn on lazy summer nights. There we would talk of our hopes and fears, dreams and wishes. Johnny had always wanted to become a famous musician. On his eleventh birthday, his father gave him his first guitar. (charm #3208 - Electric Guitar) For years, we spent every weekend in the garage. I would play the drums, my father on the harmonica, and Johnny took lead guitar with his dad on backup. After nearly ten years, to the surprise of no one that truly knew Johnny, he would be living his dream, playing guitar is a blues band that travels the country. My friendship with him is the longest I have ever had. Even though we don't see each other nearly as often as we used to, we still make phone calls, send text messages, and I'm always sure to catch a performance every time he's in Michigan.

My next charm would have to be (charm #7741 - best friends) a symbol of the relationship my sisters and I have with one another. In the words of my mother, "No matter what happens, we will always be sisters. For the first five years of my life I was an only child. I was so jealous when Heather was born and then a year later, Ashley. They were so close in age that they were always partners in crime. As a teenager I really seemed to have nothing in come with them. I used to laugh when my mother told me that someday, we would be best friends. Now that I have grown, and my sisters are in high school, I can share my own personal experiences with them. Over the past few years we have grown extremely close with one another. I like the fact that the best friends charm can split up and I would like to give the other two parts to my sisters to help them start their own charm bracelets. I would be honored to be that first charm to symbolize our love and loyalty to one another.

Every Sunday, my mother would take me to church. My favorite part of the morning was going to Sunday school with my best girl friend, Laura, and her sister, Jennifer. We sang in the children's choir together, the three of us singing harmony to the rest of the choir's melody. After church in the summer, we would go to Laura and Jennifer's house to swim. My mother would make me take my younger sisters with me, but they always fell asleep after a few hours of swimming in the hot summer sun. That's when Laura, Jennifer and I would begin to really begin to talk. We would talk about that day's lesson and then move on to cute boys in school. One of the discussions I vividly remember was a talk about the Ichthus symbol. (charm #3634 - Ichthus Symbol) I could not begin to imagine having to live in secrecy about my religion. The Ichthus was one of the only safe ways for Christians to communicate with one another. This really helped me to appreciate the freedoms we have today, living in a country that does not persecute us for our faith. It has been years since I last have seen Laura and Jennifer, thanks to the internet, I still occasionally talk to them online, but our friendship is nothing like it used to be. Everything changed the summer before my eighth grade year in school when my family moved about 30 miles away.

I did not fit in with anybody and really missed the friends from my old school. I had been in band since fifth grade, so the bright spot in my day was symphony band. The people may have changed, but the music was the same. The staff and notes all told a story of love, loss, hope, fear and the things to come. I played the tuba, (charm #7779 - Tuba) so I sat in the back row with the few other members of the low brass section. I became very close to Melissa, Damon, Donny and Jon. Jon and I were especially close. He would come over to practice difficult rhythms with me and we even entered a state competition as a duet. After rehearsals we would watch a silly old cartoon I had watched as a child, Tubby the Tuba. Half way through high school, my parents got a divorce. I was completely devastated and had a lot of trouble dealing with the changes in my family. Jon really helped to get me through the difficult days. I would talk with him for hours and he would be there to lend an ear and give advice. Jon went on the become drum major and now majoring in music in college. Every Christmas I receive a phone call when he comes home from school and we meet for lunch to catch up with each other.

Music had been a very important part of high school for me. After a few years in band, I decided to expand my musical experiences and audition for the after school show choir. In show choir I really got to know a few girls who were also in band with me. Brynn, Nichole, Rachel and I shared a hotel room together on many band and choir trips. The most memorable trip we took together was to Chicago, IL. We were performing to music from the hit musical Chicago. We wore glittery top hats and carried black and white dancing canes (charm #1652 - Hat & Cane). Dancing to that jazz music made me feel like the most beautiful and talented girl in the world. We had so much fun that week visiting the Navy Pier and eating world famous Chicago style pizza. Joining choir had been an exhilarating experience for me. I couldn't wait to see what else was out there to try and broaden my horizons.

After my experience in show choir, I wanted to try something else new. I decided to ask around some of my friends in band. One of them had suggested Computer Information Systems. The class had recently been split up into a hardware and networking class and a programming class. He basically explained to me that hardware and networking was a more hands on class, and the lessons were more like history. Programming was more like math, entering variables and solving equations. I had never been very good at math and thought building a computer would be fun, therefore, I registered for hardware and networking. (charm #6235 - Computer) When I first entered the classroom, I discovered I was the only girl in a class of about 30 guys. I later learned I was the only girl in any of the computer hardware classes. The teacher seemed a little uncomfortable with me there at first. He asked me for several weeks if I was sure I didn't want to try programming instead. I assured him I was where I wanted to be. This class was taught at the vocational-technical center that our school shared with several other high schools. It was a chance for me to meet other students I wouldn't otherwise spend time with. Some were from other schools, and I had never really become friends with anybody outside of band. Five classmates I became especially close with were Phil, Kristjan, Steve, TJ and Marcus.

After school, the five of us would meet to play Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering and Warhammer 40,000. These were new games and experiences I never knew I could find so much joy in. I had always seen comic strips of nerds playing these games and thought that these people had no idea how to have fun. Boy was I wrong. There was a certain freedom to these games, creating a character and background story. You could be anything you wanted to be. I soon started dating Marcus, and he was my first real boyfriend. We dated all the way until the end of high school. Months before graduation, we broke up. Our friendship was never what it had been before. Soon after, Marcus joined the military, Phil moved onto college, TJ moved to Texas and I moved away once again.

Moving to a new apartment about 20 miles away from old friends and having just broken up with my first love was a very difficult time for me. My father worked nights and I worked days. When I would get home from work, I was all alone. I spent many weeks just rollerblading around the neighborhood. On one of these trips, I saw an old classmate from my computer hardware class, Mike. Mike and I had talked once or twice, but were never really more than acquaintances. He was standing outside working on his Camaro. Before I knew it, I was standing in the driveway in my socks, covered in oil. Mike's best friend Chris had come over and they taught me how to change the oil, change the spark plugs (charm #2083 - Spark Plug) and weld the exhaust system. Sparks were flying from more than just the welder that night; I fell in love with Chris.

Chris and I were inseparable from the day we met. I ran into Jilliann one day, a classmate from band, while visiting Chris at the grocery store he worked at. There, I introduced her to Chris and Mike. A few days later, Mike and Jilliann were dating. Chris, Mike, Jilliann and I did everything as a group; we even got our first apartment together. The apartment was quite a ways away from any of our parents, so we spent a lot of time with only each others company. Our first Christmas together, Jilliann and Mike made a cute tie blanket out of black fleece with purple spider webs (charm #2643 - Spiderweb) for us. I had thought the spider webs were an interesting choice for a Christmas gift but Jilliann, reading my mind, explained that it was the only fleece they could get in a large enough cut to make a blanket large enough for Chris and I to cuddle together in.

After a year and a half in the apartment, Chris and I had purchased our first home together, much closer to the carpentry company he was now working for. I was very proud to be a homeowner at the age of 20. Things were looking really good for Chris and my relationship together. We got engaged that Christmas Eve and were very busy planning our wedding. I was a little disappointed when I first learned how expensive a wedding was going to be. Our house payment was quite a considerable chunk of our budget, and we wanted to have the ceremony in June. At this point, my father shared with us some very important advice. He told us that it didn't matter how much money we spent on the hall, the food or the music. The most important part of our ceremony would be the love we share and the family and friends who would come to share it with us. From that point on I didn't need the fairytale princess wedding, I just wanted to be sure all the most important people in our lives were there to celebrate with us.

The wedding date was set for June 15, 2007 (charm #4642 - Calendar). Jilliann was my maid of honor and Mike was the best man. My sisters were bridesmaids and Chris' brothers were groomsmen. Just before we walked down the brick path in the garden of the reception site, a beautiful butterfly fluttered before us and landed on the minister's microphone (charm #3763 - Butterfly). Everybody thought this was a beautiful symbol and good omen for our life together. The butterfly charm would by far be the most symbolic for me. It symbolizes the rebirth of our two souls as one which was made all the more important because it was attended by all the friends I had grown to love over the years.

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