This year, I have been a little disturbed my stepdaughter Gabrielle hasn’t wanted anything for Christmas. In the past, she’s been flush with wishes and so each year, her Christmas list is a big production. I require her to write her demands out on a fresh sheet of 8 x 11 and am usually given a crooked, charmingly misspelled list whose letters alternate in red and green ink.
But this year, Gabrielle Baker, 13 and three quarters in age, was stumped.
“I don’t know what I want,” she snarked impatiently when I asked her for the tenth time for her list.
That prompted me to snark back: “If you don’t want anything, maybe it’s a sign you have too much.”
Following that guilt-ridden remark, which didn’t exactly earn me the Stepmother of the Year badge, she came down the steps the next morning with two requests: a new fleece and an Origami Owl necklace.
I had learned about the Origami Owl phenomenon through Facebook and seen the little necklaces strung around a few of my friends’ necks. The heart of the concept is a see-through locket within which you can place little charms that define you in some way. Perhaps a little piano if you play the piano, a suitcase if traveling is your thing.
After her request, I got to work. I knew my friend Meredith sold the necklaces and asked her if she could put one together for Gabrielle. She instead offered to come to our house with all of her Origami Owl loot so Gabrielle could put one together herself.
I’m big into surprises at Christmas, but I had a suspicion I might be seen as slightly more cool in the 13 and three quarters’ eyes if she knew I had a friend who could set her up right. So I told Meredith to come on over and yesterday she arrived with a big bag of charms.
I’m not sure about all you other women out there, but the idea of charms is deeply appealing to me. It stems from this silver charm bracelet my mom has that, through the entirely of my childhood, lived in a plain, wooden jewelry box lined with green velvet.
When my mom was feeling indulgent, she’d let me open the box, and I’d line up all of her jewelry on the bed to inspect it. Though it was mostly filled with cheap costume jewelry, broaches I’d made her with Play-Doh or outdated crap she never wore anymore, I might as well have been inspecting the crown jewels. I’d ask her the story behind every piece in the box, from whom she’d gotten it, when she’d worn it, why she didn’t wear it anymore.
Then I’d get to the bracelet, strung with the most fantastic charms. She’d started collecting them on her first trip to Europe and each charm represented a country she’d visited: a four-leaf clover from Ireland, a Dutch wooden clog, a tiny castanet from Spain. They dangled joyously from their silver links and when she put it on, one of the charms, I think the one from Germany, had a bell in it and it sang.
Anyway, I thought of that bracelet as Meredith pulled out her Origami Owl paraphernalia yesterday, and I watched Gabrielle’s eyes get bigger and then bigger. Almost any kind of charm was sitting in tray and she wanted to inspect each one. Meredith and I chatted as Gabrielle explored, that girl’s love of little things still not lost. After nearly an hour, she had three collections of charms chosen and it was time to decide which one she wanted most.
She finally decided on a pink heart, a tiny flute and a little coin that says love, a wonderfully girly collection that really does represent Gabrielle’s personality. My friend took down the information and told Gabrielle her very own necklace would be hers in time for Christmas wrapped, and get this, inside a fortune cookie-shaped purse nestled in a Chinese takeout-like box.
The thought of the fortune cookie alone was enough to make Gabrielle squeal and as I watched her interact with my friend, her manners now well established and automatic, her personality bubbly, witty and enthusiastic, a little bow tucked beside the bun she’s been wearing in her hair, I loved her with all my heart. And I was ready to let the tradition of the Christmas list go.