Return of the Native

Back on my wrist again, after a long hiatus.

In college, living in a little college town, there was a shop in that town selling what was known as hippie-dippy things. There was a shelf of hand-thrown pottery, mostly cereal bowls and coffee mugs; there were candles and handmade soaps and batik bedspreads. There was incense. You could buy macramé plant-hangers and small batch potpourri. In addition to a limited line of denim (I remember purchasing my one and only pair of overalls), in a locked case along one wall there was a selection of fine handmade jewelry, some of it Native American. For the entirety of my final semester, senior year, I coveted a rather spendy sterling silver Native American cuff bracelet whose center was an oblong stone of green turquoise. There was a hairline crack in the stone that to me only made the bracelet more beautiful. I tried it on a few times, but I never had enough money to purchase.

At graduation, my college boyfriend’s mother surprised me by gifting me the bracelet. I was overjoyed and oblivious to the notion she might have thought of the bracelet as a sort of pre-engagement present. Her son and I never did become engaged as I went off to graduate school and he fell in love with a red-haired beauty who he married shortly after. I wore the bracelet every day because I loved it and was glad to see it on my wrist. Only after I married someone else and had a child did I finally take it off. I put it in my jewelry box and there it stayed for 15 years.

At which time I took it out and in a fever of purging my belongings, I gave it to the 15 year old daughter of my best friend who wore it a few times before putting it to rest in her own jewelry box.

Fast forward to last summer when Mr. Sax and I visited Santa Fe. It wasn’t the greatest trip as they were experiencing a shocking to me heatwave. We went to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and we booked a private hot tub and sauna at the spa Ten Thousand Waves. We had dinner one night with an old friend. It being too hot to sightsee, we spent most of our time drinking margaritas. We spent an inordinate amount of time in the shops looking at Native American jewelry. I fell in love with a few pieces but they were way out of my price range, and then I remembered I had a beautiful Native American bracelet that I had given away.

My whole life I’ve had a fascination with Native American jewelry. For the record, I also love moccasins, deerskin apparel, dream catchers, and tipis. I don’t have a drop of Native ancestry. And yet I feel completely drawn to their jewelry.

Back home, I found a website called Pueblo Direct that sells the Tommy Singer cuff bracelets I’d so admired in Santa Fe. Singer, who was born in 1940 and passed away in 2014, was a world famous Navajo silversmith with a distinctive style. He learned silversmithing from his father, a Navajo Medicine man, when he was just a lad. Singer’s early works were done in the silver overlay technique, but over time, he began to work more with turquoise. Using scrap turquoise chips, he pioneered the technique of chip inlay. I beat myself up a little after we got home that I didn’t just fork up and buy a piece when we were in New Mexico. The guy’s dead. He’s not making any more bracelets.

The thought I might die and never see my old silver and turquoise bracelet again haunted me. I hadn’t laid eyes on it in 17 years. But it was seven months before I brought up the subject of the bracelet to my best friend. I asked if her daughter still had it and she said she would ask. Her daughter lives very far away, although close to her mother, my friend. Four years ago, I moved across the country. To my amazement I went to the mailbox about a week later and there was a package. Inside was the bracelet.

Miracles do happen. I’ve got one on my wrist to prove it.

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