My Charming Friends

By Linda O'Connell

My Charming Friends

In the late 1950s, when charm bracelets were the in thing, classmates huddled at recess and fawned over their newest decorative silver charms. I listened to their happy chatter and jangling bracelets: “Horses are my favorite; and I also like ice skating. I received this ballerina for my birthday.”

Examining charm bracelets was like reading today’s bumper stickers. Girls wore their interests and their heart’s desires on their wrists. I had no means of advertising. My family could not afford a silver link bracelet, much less individual charms. I yearned to feel the weight of a charm bracelet on my arm. I wanted to add to the collective melody. I imagined my charms clinking across my desk as I did my math and wrote compositions. But it wasn’t to be. By the time I could afford to purchase my own charm bracelet, they were no longer in vogue.

Over the years I have owned every kind of bracelet imaginable: macramé friendship bracelets, real gold bracelets, jeweled, beaded bangles and colorful stretchy wrist bands to announce my support and/or affiliation. I have a weakness for bracelets. I own junky, clunky, delicate and expensive ones. No matter, I’ve always secretly ached for that young girl’s charm bracelet.

I was delighted in the 1980s when I discovered a silver “wish” bracelet with one charm, a miniature silver box that actually opened. The wearer could print a wish on a tiny scrap of paper and stuff it into the box. It was more appropriate for my preteen daughter who rejected it. Goodness knows she’d have worn out the teeny clasp on the box as often as she changed her mind. So, I declared that cheap piece of jewelry my charm bracelet. I didn’t write my wishes in miniature print, but I did whisper my wishes into that little box. When my friend developed terminal cancer, I wished for her healing and then to prolong her life. When my kids fought, I wished for peace. I wished for everything from a new car to a new job. I visualized my wishes as charms. That bracelet seemed to get heavier with every whispered wish. After my divorce I wished to meet a compatible, nice man. My wish came true. I wished for a healthy granddaughter, and my wish was granted. Like an omen, my bracelet broke after my best friend passed away, and I left it in a heap in the bottom of my jewelry box.

My children grew up. I remarried and started a new life. My new husband and I are best friends, but it isn’t the same as having a back door girlfriend with whom to share life’s joys and sorrows. As happy as I was in my new marriage, I was equally unhappy not having a best female friend anymore.

When we bought our house in a comfortable residential neighborhood; I just knew I would find her. Out of habit, I lifted my bare wrist and whispered a wish when we moved in. Unfortunately, our neighbors were very elderly, and we had little in common. Years passed, and eventually the neighbors on either side passed away. Each time the “For Sale” signs went up on the lawn, I hoped. The two new couples were about our age, but sadly both families spoke little or no English, and although we all made an effort to be neighborly, communication was difficult for all of us. No back fence neighbor for me to share tidbits with.

My female work associates were younger with small children. We laughed at work, but when I came home, I longed for that old feeling of sharing a cup of “gossip coffee” with the gal next door.

Then it occurred to me that I could hand-select my new best friends. I chose four women of varying ages. I had met each of them at different times at writing events. I invited them to form a writer’s critique group with me. We came from all ends of town to gather twice a month at a local bookstore to read and critique one another’s work. We were a bit awkward at first, very formal, and we conducted our meetings in a businesslike manner. Then one of the women, Sioux, accidentally pulled a chair out from under me as she politely offered, “I don’t mind sitting in this wooden chair; please take the soft arm chair.” Her tongue-in-cheek sense of humor led to blog posts with hilarious headlines about the incident.

At the next meeting, Tammy mentioned internet dating sites. We spent our first half hour discussing what “pieces of work” some guys can be, rather than discussing our works-in-progress.

At the following meeting, Beth, the youngest member of our group, shared her life stories which sent us all into giggle fits.

Lynn opened up and invited us into her home. She knew we couldn’t continue at the public bookstore carrying on as we had been. Now, twice a month my new friends and I meet at Lynn’s for writing group. We take turns bringing food. Our first hour is informal, devoted to sharing delectable desserts and details of our lives. We laugh until our sides hurt and our facial muscles ache. We are fresh, frank and funny. Each of has a signature personality. Our meetings have been beneficial, and we have all been published as a result of our joint efforts. More than that, we have connected on a deeply personal and supportive level.

I still don’t have a back door woman friend, but when I walk through Lynn’s front door every other Wednesday and see my charming friends, I feel like a young girl at recess showing off her jewels. They have no idea that I regard them as priceless charms on my imaginary bracelet.

About this writer

  • Linda O’ConnellLinda O’Connell is a seasoned preschool teacher and award-winning freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. Her prose and poetry have appeared in books, magazines and anthologies. As Linda waltzed through the decades, she discovered her age of elegance was in her forties, but she isn’t complaining. Life has been an adventure. Linda resides in the Midwest but her heart and soul hang out at the beach.

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63 Responses to “My Charming Friends”

  1. Sioux says:

    I’ve said this repeatedly: I really did NOT mean for you to fall on your rump in the middle of Barnes and Noble. Really. ;)

    I feel the same way. Every other Wednesday is the highlight of my life. The WWWPs have become my friends and my writing colleagues. I can’t imagine a better writing group OR a better group of women.

    And your comparison of Lynn’s front door friends with your desire for a backdoor friend is perfect. (Look on the bright side. You will NEVER see any of your front door friends traipse across their lawn, their nightgown flapping in the breeze to reveal something you can NEVER unsee. Be grateful.)

  2. T'Mara says:

    This is an absolutely charming gift to read! I hope you know how valuable you are to the rest of us – both as a writer and as a friend.

  3. Oh, I remember those charm bracelets, and how I longed for one as well, Linda! I finally did get my charm bracelet just as you got a charming group of friends.

    Well, most of them are charming. That Sioux–you have to keep an eye on her! :-D

  4. Diane Thompson says:

    Charming as ever. Took me back to the time when all is well. Jumping in puddles of mud. Thank you again Linda. You brightened my day. Diane

  5. Pat says:

    We all need gal pals, don’t we, Linda? I really enjoyed this lovely story about how you found true sisters-of-the-heart friendship.

  6. Mary says:

    Great essay about the power and importance of women’s friendships, Linda! I loved the tale of you falling on your tail at Barnes & Noble–I can just see you! :-)

    We need to get together for coffee or wine soon!

  7. Susan says:

    Lovely column, Linda. it is so true that friends are the real charms of life! susan

  8. Terri says:

    A charming story indeed by a charming writer. I wanted one of those bracelets, too, and never got one. Fortunately, I’m blessed with good women friends, and one, in particular, with whom I can share absolutely everything. I only wish she didn’t live an entire continent away.

  9. Dianna says:

    Lovely essay, Linda. Although you and I are “long distance” friends and communicate mostly through emails and texts, i look forward to hearing from you every time! How lucky your charming writing pals are to have you in their lives.

  10. Barbara says:

    Linda, I love this story. I identified with every point you raised, and I found myself longing for the Cedarhurst Writer’s Roundtable, a group I joined in early 1988. Not all women, but all ages, from a 14 yr old boy to a 70 something moderator. I, too, never had a charm bracelet, but my daughter-in-law and both granddaughters had them…beautiful tinkling charms. Thank you for writing this story Sasee for publishing it!

  11. Lovely piece here, Linda. I’m sure your friends consider you as quite a “gem.” :-)

  12. Bobby Barbara Smith says:

    Oh, the clinking sound of charms are embedded fondly in my memory. What a “charming” piece of work. I’m a huge fan.

  13. Betty (Kate) Lawson says:

    Linda, I really enjoyed reading the essay. It brought back memories of my childhood and remembering the charm bracelet I received as a Christmas present and how excited I was.
    Mine had an ice skate, a kitten and also a small box charm with a tiny red gem where the door would open. Thank you for taking me back in time when life seemed so simple and we appreciated what our parents sacrificed for our happiness. GREAT, essay.

  14. Theresa Sanders says:

    Beautiful story, Linda. I loved your description of blowing wishes into the tiny box on your bracelet. Our friends are our connective charms. Where would we be without them?

  15. Claudia says:

    What a great piece! Loved the way you tied the bracelet and freinds together. I was 16 years old when I got my charm bracelet with two charms, one saying Sweet 16. I wore it solid for 10 years adding to it…still get it out to look at memories and one in a blue moon I do wear it. It was/is so special to me!

  16. Pat Sheppard says:

    I have wanted a charm bracelet my whole life, you have reminded me of that, and of my younger self. Friends were so important then, and now. Beautiful piece, Linda.

  17. Ashley Drennen says:

    What a wonderful story! This reminds me of my girl friends and I :) Love it!

  18. I love being one of your charm friends. You too are special to me. Great article. You’re always an inspiration!

  19. Sylvia says:

    What a fun essay! I remember those charm bracelets, too! But even better, is having friends that you can share your life with. Glad we are long-distance friends!

  20. Debra says:

    I enjoyed reading this and thought of how blessed we are to have friends and memories. No matter your age it is always good to have times to share and laugh until you cry. Great job Linda, I felt several different emotions as I read.

  21. Alice says:

    Linda, what a charming story! I’ve been fortunate to have several life-long friends, one since grade school (trust me, that’s been a long time ago). Even though we don’t catch up often, we pick up where we left off. Your stories are so easy to relate to. This got me reminiscing. And it’s okay that I never got my bracelet. Really, no big deal. Sniff, sniff.

  22. Val says:

    I consider you my over-the-internet friend. I hope that’s not too forward of me. Thank you for polishing my would-be writing submissions until they glow. You are a priceless charm who makes the others shine brighter by association.

  23. Ellie says:

    Linda, Your writing is so warm and nostalgic…
    another charmer indeed!

  24. Faye Adams says:

    I always enjoy your writing, Linda, and this essay is no exception. Your style, wit, and heart keep me reading to the last word. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Rhonda says:

    That is a beautiful story. I had a charm bracelet when I was young. I look at it now and see what was important then is not important now. Life is all about love, family and friends.

  26. Deb Marshall says:

    I enjoy your writing so much, Linda, especially when you take your friends on those little walks down Memory Lane with you.

  27. Debbie Fox says:

    Linda this is well written and a lovely memory to jumpstart the piece. You tied up the ending so neatly, a sign of good writing. I enjoy reading your work.

  28. Peggy Walker says:

    Linda, the essay was great and I remembered the bracelets. How fun they were. Keep writing all these good stories.

  29. As always, Linda, you give us a little piece of yourself that is so relatable to all readers in some way. Everyone needs special friends. Great story.

  30. Debbie, thank you for your comments and compliments. A good writer recognizes good writing.

  31. Lee O'Donnell says:

    Linda, Yet again, I am impressed with your insight and ability to voice an experience so many of us ‘survived’. Your humor and sensitivity add so much to the way you tell your story. I too remember the charm bracelets as well as the search for that female best friend – glad that you have found the ‘charms’ of so many friends. Thank you for sharing your story and your friendship!

  32. Bruce says:

    Hi Linda, Great story

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