Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, my college boyfriend went to China for the summer on a study abroad program while I stayed in the house where he lived with his roommates and worked and was lonely because I only got to talk to him, like, twice. He had a pretty amazing trip, though, and he brough back some souvenirs for me from his travels to Beijing, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Souzhou, and Shanghai. I got a pearly silk tank top and a piece of purple silk shot with silver threads (some of which I later used to make a pillow for my sister) and, I’m sure was supposed to be the Big Present, a gorgeous rose-colored jade bangle bracelet. (It looked like this, only prettier.)
I loved the bangle bracelet, but sadly, the way my hands are constructed the bones in them are just too big/wide for me to be able to wear most bangles. I’m sure my boyfriend didn’t even think about that – he just saw a pretty bracelet that he thought I would like. And I did! I liked it very much! I tried really, really hard to mangle my hand bones in such a way to slip it over my hand and on to my wrist, but even with the aid of some sort of greasy substance like crisco or pomade or whatever it is that comes out of my nose pores, I doubt I’d ever manage to wear it. I never told him that I couldn’t wear it, and we broke up about a month after he came back from that trip, but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything about the bracelet. I had it wrapped in a scrap of fabric in a small jewelry container that was just the right size for it, and every year or two I’d take it out of the container, unwrap it, admire that beautiful rose color, comically shove it down my fingers to where it would sit, remove it, rewrap it, and put it back in the container. I decided that if College Boyfriend ever had a daughter I’d somehow figure out a way to give it to her.
Dan and I went to China in 2005, and while we were there I tried on endless jade bangle bracelets, only to be thwarted at every turn. The ones like mine were all way too small, and the ones that were big enough to fit over my hand were so big they’d fall right back off again. I decided that jade bangle bracelets and I were not meant to be, and found other pretty things to bring back from China for myself.
These days, I’m still friends with College Boyfriend’s older brother. His younger brother has three boys (two of them twins) and his older brother has two daughters, but College Boyfriend has no kids and it’s looking very much like he never will. Today, unexpectedly, College Boyfriend’s brother stopped by my house, and before he left I pulled out the rose jade bangle bracelet and told him the story about China and the present that I was not meant to wear. “I always meant to give it to you or one of your brothers, whichever one of you had a girl,” I told him. “Give it to whichever daughter you think will appreciate it more, whenever you think it’s appropriate for her to have it [his daughters are still very young, only five and three], and tell her that long before she was born her uncle Jason went to China and brought back this beautiful bracelet that now belongs to her.” I didn’t tell him to mention that it was originally purchased for a long-ago girlfriend who had hands too big to ever wear it.