History Lesson
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 12:28PM
Jane Quigley in exposition, family, for fun and/or profit, parents

My Charm BraceletI've been cleaning out my apartment - getting rid of a huge amount of stuff - and I found something. I'm not a particularly sentimental person - okay, maybe about some things - definitely not a lot about my personal history. I don't dwell, I don't romanticize, I just like to move ahead. And it's easy for me to put stuff aside - it's things - whether it's external or internal. And it's not that I had a bad childhood - I was loved and cared for, with a liberal side of dysfunction, just like most people.

But things seem to be surfacing on their own lately. My 43-year old cousin is unexpectedly pregnant for the first time, and it's brought us closer. My niece is asking questions about the Grandparents she never knew. A family that used to fill our house to bursting with all of aunts, uncles and cousins (we're fiercely Irish) has been distilled to less than 10 who speak on any regular basis.

And I found this. A charm bracelet that my Mom lovingly added to at every holiday and milestone. After my parents died and we sold the (really very charming) house, many things got lost or went missing. This was one of the items (my sister, who wore hers everyday, lost it during her own wedding reception. She was inconsolable. It was an omen.). I hadn't really thought about it in years, until I was going through some boxes before I sent things to the trash, and there it was. And a lot of stuff came flooding back.

I am the firstborn child of two public servants - my Dad was our (Nutley, NJ's) Town Treasurer and my Mom was the Assistant to the Mayor, who also for a time was the President of the NJ State Senate. He also grew up and went to Catholic school with my Dad. My sister and I grew up knowing that you had to work hard, that you didn't give up until things were done. We both went to Rutgers (NJ's State University, which we had loans to help pay for) and jobs each summer that allowed us to have money to travel or for play money during the year. They gave us a lot and set expectations about how to achieve the rest. They didn't really teach us a lot about money, but they did instill in both of us a very strong work ethic.

One night last week, I was working on a live event for a client. During the downtime, much of the conversation turned to parenting (as a single girl, not something I can contribute to in any meaningful way). It occurred to me that I was surrounded by wonderful people who were able to send their kids to private schools in NYC and great colleges. Again not a subject I can add to significantly. But I suddenly felt a wave of pride for who my parents were and what they did for us. I didn't feel disadvantaged, but really, very lucky of what I was given. And this bracelet, found at the right time, is a wonderful reminder of exactly that.

BTW - one of the most amazing pieces of writing I've ever read on someone's personal history was this. It's stayed with me for months.


Article originally appeared on New Direction, No Map (http://www.newdirectionnomap.com/).
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