(guest writer Sierra Ross Gladfelter)
Silver hoops ring a narrow wrist, signaling her entrance. Bracelets ride up her sleeves, like the severed links of a slinky. They snag in the fibers of her red sweater, pulling out loops of thread.
Bands slide into each other and stick. I pry them apart like clam shells. I am learning how to count. One pinches me as I touch the pale, damp skin beneath her armor. It doesn’t see the sun, because she never takes her bracelets off. Even to sleep. They never lose the warmth of her body heat.
Lying in bed, I hook my tiny pink fingers through the silver circles. I want to know all the stories, even though I have them memorized. I move my lips to the words as she holds me to her breast, tucked against her armpit. Arm lifted, the bracelets cascade like falling water.
The weight cuts into the flesh of her forearm. Each one represents a friend; a country we went hunting through to find one. I rub my thumb over the worn etchings of one her dead mother wore. The flowers are almost gone, polished off by the constant brush of skin. Scratched silver bands twinkle in the light like dull stars.
When I was an infant, my mother gave me my first bangle. Dangling from it was a silver bell, battered and dented with play. Over the years I have collected more. Most of them are from her. They stand for moments, places, a daughter’s inheritance.
FROM CINDY: I began wearing silver bracelets when I was 21 years old and worked underground in an iron ore mine. I was saving money to transfer to a professional art school, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. My father did not want me to be an artist- too insecure- an art teacher was what he preferred and so I had to find the money to go to school on my own. That was OK. There were 800 men and 12 women in that underground iron ore mine- I had a lot of men friends who took me hunting and fishing, and one man, Mitch, who was 20 years older than me, used to go to flea markets and buy silver jewelry. I was his buddy and so he used to give them to me.
Over the years, friends and family began buying them for me, wanting to be included on my wrist. The summer we took the kids llama packing across the Rockies in Glacier NP where there are more grizzlies than anywhere else in the lower 48, a few friends added a bracelet to my collection- so I could go there, think of them and their love and support and find courage. And so the custom grew- And I added a few of my own when we visited a foreign country.I have bracelets from Morocco, Ireland, Poland, Mexico, Thailand, India, etc. Some say they are my trademark. I never tried to create anything. I just feel their love and want it with me all the time, so I never take them off. (except when I visit a developing country). And yes, I get frisked at airports. It never bothers me. The skin rips off if I have to remove them and my hand gets welts and swells, so I only change wrists a few times a year, in the bath tub with a lot of soap. I wear at least 20. Not many of you knew the story behind them.