How a charm bracelet can tell the story of a life in memories

by Maureen Wheeler

Sibuylesque Quote Margaret Atwood

Forty-four years ago, on a park bench in Regent’s Park London, I met the man who was to become my husband exactly one year later. To quote Bob Dylan “I was so much older then”, we all were. We married young, had children young, took on huge responsibilities, such as, ourselves, and trusted the universe would somehow be kind to us.

We were married quietly. Just the two of us and two witnesses. My mother hadn’t met Tony so she was understandably upset. I had no idea how Hilary, my new mother in law, felt, but then I had no idea how Hilary felt about anything. I’m Irish, she’s English, is how I explained the gulf between us. She wasn’t exactly mean, she wasn’t exactly not mean, just English.

Our first child was a daughter. When she lost her first tooth, Hilary asked if she might have it. I was a bit stunned at what seemed an unusually sentimental thought. A few years later I discovered Hilary had bought a thick gold chain bracelet when Tashi was born, and every year she added a charm. A clock was the first one because Tashi was a dreadful sleeper.

Sibylesque charm bracelet

An aeroplane was next, because we took Tashi travelling with us when she was six months old. Her first tooth became the mould for another gold charm. A gold wok, when she went to Asia. Every year, or major event, Hilary added a gold charm to the bracelet, until she was twenty one years old. A bracelet full of memories. The gold is worth quite a lot now, but the charms and the thought that went into it is priceless.

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The author with her children outside Kathmandu Valley, Nepal in 1983

The author with her children outside Kathmandu Valley, Nepal in 1983

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Maureen Wheeler is a feisty conversationalist and a gifted raconteur, who started the publishing company Lonely Planet with her husband Tony.

Photo Source: vanessafrisbee blog

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Why it is good to be old!

By Kerry Cue

Sibylesque old age quote 2

In, At Seventy, her journal chronicling the year that began on her 70th birthday, American Poet May Sarton noted that aging offers an opportunity to become more fully ourselves and , more not less, individual. (How to Age, Anne Karpf, The School of Life, p9) Sarton wrote the quote (above) when she was 85 years old.

Yet this celebration of the Self that embodies a quiet acceptance – rather than Me-glorious-Me narcissim – is something rarely articulated in our culture. We are presented with images of age as a ‘hideous ruin’, what sociologist Mike Featherstone calls ‘a pornography of old age’. See The Portrait of the Mother by the Artist

Sibylesque Senior Moment

So it is a delight to open a newspaper and discover an article titled: On turning 70 by Liz Byrski (SMH 3 AUG 2014), which celebrated aging. Byrski begins with “Seventy feels like a reward for patience and perseverance, and I am determined to make the most of what follows.” While other milestone birthdays in Byrski’s life – 21, 40, 50 – did not deliver a feeling of change, waking up on her 70th birthday was a liberating experience.

‘I’d arrived; something had shifted’ she wrote. A pair of high heels was symbolic of this shift. A symbol of ‘discomfort and restrictions of conformity’, she chucked them out. She became more herself. Byrski does not shy away from the physical challenges of old age. But insists ‘we are living proof for young people that ageing can be a time of pleasure, satisfaction, opportunity and yes, even new horizons.’

We, THE SIBYLS, declare Liz Byrski an Honorary Sibyl for her open spirit, contagious vitality and willingness to explore that philosophical question ‘what does it mean to grow old?’

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liz bryskicompanyofstrangersLiz Byrski is a WA-based broadcaster and an author of both fiction and non-fiction books. She started writing novels in her late fifties based on interesting and active older female characters as, so often, the stereotype of older women in novels were limited to the nosey neighbour, interfering mother-in-law, frail and dependent burden, or lonely miserable spinster.lastchance

Her books include In the Company of Strangers and Last Chance Café.

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