As I was reading Wade's post for this month, I was reminded of when my mother-in-law and I went to Rosh Hashanah services together. She wore a charm bracelet that was passed along to her from her mother, and she told me how she would play with the charms during services when she was a kid and how she wore it now in case my kids wanted to play with the charms. They definitely kept my daughter entertained when she wanted to sit with us during the holiday services. It's amazing to think about how jewelry and stories get passed down through generations and I don't expect to see any dry eyes after you read about Wade's memories. His debut novel, The Charm Bracelet (written as Viola Shipman) published yesterday. (Check out a review here.) Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies to share with some lucky US readers!
The Seasons of Our Lives
As I grow older, the seasons come faster and seem shorter, and yet I find them laced with even more beauty and resonance.
Summer, of course, is still filled with childlike wonder, days at the beach, reading on the screen porch while the Cardinals game plays in the background, picking blueberries, eating triple scoop ice cream cones and watching fireflies illuminate the warm night.
Fall brings a return to routine along with crisp days, crockpot meals, football and sugar maples blanketed with leaves of crimson, yellow and orange.
Winter is a time of hibernation and snow, which comes early in Michigan – snowmen and snow angels and cross-country skiing – and Christmas is tinged with love and sadness now that both of my parents are gone.
But spring has always held a certain wonder for me, a time of rebirth. I love to wander through our woods and admire the daffodils that grow wildly and blanket the hillsides in gold, the Crayon tulips that pop up around trees and the inspiration of Easter, both spiritually and commercially (who still doesn't love Easter baskets, chocolate, dying eggs and Peeps?!?).
I was born March 30th, and my birthday has often fallen around or on Easter. My mother always called me her "child of hope," and she planted dogwoods – pink and white – in our childhood yard to represent me and my brother, who died when he was 17. I drove past our home last year while visiting my father, and those trees are intertwined now, pink and white hugging one another forever.
I used to call my mother on my birthday, before she could wake, much like Billy Crystal's mother did in the movie City Slickers.
"Happy Birthday," I would say to her.
"You're not well," she would joke. "I was going to call you … when it was light out."
"It's really your birthday," I would say. "I was just along for the ride."
"My child of hope," she would whisper, her voice suddenly emotional.
On my birthday, she would often send me daffodils and tulips – "for your writing desk," she would state on her card – as well as gifts to "inspire your muse."
It seems only appropriate that my latest book – and debut novel, The Charm Bracelet – would also be born in the spring (March 22 is its launch date) and be inspired by her. In fact, The Charm Bracelet is inspired by mother and grandmothers – their charm bracelets and lessons – as well as the "seasons" of our lives. It is also a tribute to my grandmothers: I chose the pen name Viola Shipman, my maternal grandmother's name, to honor all the women who inspired this book as well as me to become a writer.
|With my maternal grandmother|
I always say that the jangling of my grandmothers' charm bracelets was the background music to my childhood, and the charms are the narrative structure and hook of this book. Each charm in the book – like in my grandmothers' lives – held a story, a key that unlocked a secret part of them, and that while the charms were simple, their symbolism was grand: The dragonfly charm was to a life filled with good fortune; the puzzle piece was to a life filled with friends who complete you; the loon charm for a love that always called you home; the mustard seed charm to a life filled with faith.
My roots are present in this novel, which is about how the charms on a grandmother's bracelet reconnect her to her daughter and granddaughter and reminds them (before she falls further into dementia) -- and all of us -- of what's most important in this too-busy world: Family, faith, friends, fun, love and a passion for what you do.
I consider this book to be a child of hope as well, and I know my mom and grandmothers would be proud. I can picture us all swinging on a glider on a warm summer day drinking iced tea and reading this book aloud to one another.
I couldn't be prouder of this book – and this new season of my life as a novelist – and truly hope you're charmed by The Charm Bracelet.
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VIOLA SHIPMAN is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered. To date, The Charm Bracelet has been translated into nine languages and is an April Indie Next Pick by the nation's independent booksellers. He is at work on his second “heirloom novel,” which will be published in 2017 from St. Martin's Press. For more, please visit www.violashipman.com