Rebecca Gagnon of Taunton, MA

Picture of Rebecca Gagnon's winning bracelet

When I was growing up, I was started on a charm bracelet. I was taught that only the most important things go on the bracelet, and it grows and matures through life, just like I do. I feel that charms are abstract and powerful memory triggers, as each piece of cast silver is an important marker to the wearer in some way. While beautiful to look at, the charm bracelet is a road map to one's soul. With that, I will attempt to map my mother's life, and more importantly, her soul, through these talismans.

My mother has been a strong person, unassuming, and present in my life, and in the lives of those she touches. She would argue that she is a just a 'regular' person, among many, who puts on her pants the same way as everyone else in the world, and needs her coffee to get her through the day (Coffee Bean, charm #6102). It is with that quiet affirmation, that she goes about her life.

Her grandfather owned and operated a seafood restaurant on the wharfs of Gloucester, Massachusetts. It was a family affair, aunts and uncles and older cousins bustling about on busy Friday nights. She was too young to truly help, though occasionally a drink of fountain soda was thrust in her pudgy hands to bring to a nearby table. Her fondest recollections of 'working' the restaurant with her family involve dark spaces under countertops, playing with live lobsters as though they were expensive dolls from Woolworths (Lobster, charm #5402).

Being the oldest of three siblings, my mother often felt the urge to carve out time for herself. She was the one expected to do the best in school, to watch out for her siblings, to play babysitter--it is not hard to imagine the responsibilities piled on a young girl being a lot to bear at the time. Her escape, her moments of freedom, came in the form of two wheels and a handlebar (Bicycle, charm #0476). With such self-powered transportation, she could head to hills and fields, have giggling moments with her girlfriends, and have a way to get to and from her first job.

Branching out meant independence, freedom, and her own place to live. Trading the shade of maple trees for a clustering stand of oaks (Oak Leaf, charm #6149), it was a time for her to start laying her own roots and start weathering her storms without the constant watch of her parents. She was on her own, and learned to bend and sway like the trees surrounding her, rather than the rigidness that her upbringing taught.

With storms come faith, and the charity work of lending a helping hand to those who are a bit lost. Mother volunteered as a retreat peer counselor for many years at a nearby sanctuary. Such work shapes a person and forms bonds of comradery with like-minded individuals that spans all walks of life (Faith, Hope, and Charity, charm #0541). It was there that she met her husband, who did his very best to give her hope and security.

After an eight year courtship, my mother married in a day filled with ribbons, flowers, and many tears (Wedding Bells, charm #1847). The ceremony was small and traditional. Family and friends, music, and the hope of a new couple beginning their lives together, bound the day in their memories.

Her first and only child was brought into the world just a year afterward, and filled her days bashful giggling and the preparations for welcoming the bundle. Ten little fingers, ten little toes made tears spring to her eyes. She dressed me up as though I were a doll (Baby Shoes, charm #0516), and to her, I most certainly was.

It was my mother's decision to stay home with me, while I was too young to go to school. When I did go, she did as well, taking a job as a teacher's assistant so that she could be around when I was. Such a job allowed her to be in an environment she adored, helping children learn to read and question their world (Book, charm #3160). She had done so with her own daughter, most certainly.

Through her work in the schools, my mother met her best friend. A teacher with some disabilities that required an assistant in the classroom became a fast and loved friend The two are still inseparable, many years after their meeting. Having no children herself, my mother's friend had a passion for cats (Siamese Cat, charm #0175) that sparked my mother's own caring of the beloved animals.

My mother never had the opportunity to go to college, and in that light, she made sure I did attend. It was not a surprise that I pursued coursework in teaching and technology, as her love for reading and challenging what is unknown was deep-rooted in me. The diploma I received, and my own success, was deeply contributed to by my mother (Diploma, charm #0185). She puffed and preened, strutted and cried more than I did that day--you would think she was on stage! Yet, I suppose, in her eyes, she was.

Confining one's life to a small amount of events is always difficult, but just like her bracelet, there is always room to add more. This journey is far from over yet, as there are just too many links waiting to continue the story, Her story.

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