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  • It seems there’s always been an inherited wanderlust in my family. Or maybe it’s within the human family. Regardless of her own reason, my maternal grandmother visited Mexico in 1978. Everyone knows you can’t visit a place without bringing something back. The experience alone should be, but never is, enough.

    So when my mother’s mother choose to return home from her holiday back to her conventional life in the United States, she needed something that would suggest she was global. Exotic. She needed something that would verify and validate her accounts of the movie star’s homes, the native inhabitants out on the streets, the donkey that narrowly missed the bus, and her view of it all from the coveted window seat. How else could she make it real from the basement of the Methodist Church, right there among housewives bearing casserole dishes older than the hands that held them through Slovak-patterned oven mitts? Yes, she needed something that had seen more interesting places than Toronto, Ohio, a town that was only nine citizens away from being denoted to the category of village during last year’s census.

    Dear Grandma could never have known that a sterling silver sombrero charm, on a thin chain, would go farther into the future than the young version of herself could have fathomed.

    Did she imagine when she bought the necklace that she would one day have a daughter? That the daughter would grow tired of small town life and move to Florida, far away from the river town where she was born? That the same child would grow into a woman, get married, then raise a daughter of her own? I don’t think she did. But I know for certain she didn’t know her future granddaughter’s High School mascot would be a sombrero.

    Eventually it was my turn to wear the necklace. The first time I did, everyone was impressed that a mere Freshman could have such a unique tailgating accessory. Time went by, and the sombrero made more and more appearances at school events. Just as it once validated my grandmother in front of her peers, so did it qualify me as I walked up and down the halls, campaigning for Student Council.
    It was there as I earned money, spent money, fell in love, and out of love. Friends would come, go, return, and leave again. It was there as I achieved things the way only a young person can. It was there when I burned bridges the way only a teenager can.

    I don’t know what else the necklace and I will do together, but one thing is for sure: whether or not my daughter attends my Alma Mater, or whether or not I even have a daughter, that sombrero necklace will protect someone I love the way it protected me. Just as soon as she turns fourteen.
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