Bracelet with Turquoise

In Attire
The bracelet, with fifteen turquoise stones, was a gift from my great-grandmother to my mother, to me.
The bracelet, with fifteen turquoise stones, was a gift from my great-grandmother to my mother, to me.

I wear this turquoise bracelet only occasionally, and every time I put it on, I'm puzzled by my personal connection to it. My great-grandmother, Gladys Howell, gifted this bracelet to her granddaughter Mary, my mother. Gladys lived in Tucson, Arizona, nearly 2,400 miles from her granddaughter in Cranford, New Jersey. Gladys sent my mom letters and jewelry from Arizona; I learned the origin of the bracelet from my mom, after asking. My mom knew that her grandmother was a teacher, one who travelled to teach at schools in the West. My mom also knew of Gladys' loss of her husband, who died in a mining accident. But she never actually met her grandmother, and was missing a lot of details. Curious to know more, I searched online records, and found a 1920 Census Record from Tucson that shows Gladys, widowed, living with her mother, also widowed, and John, her son, my grandfather, who was 13. Their neighbors were from Mexico, and China, and Kentucky. The census also reveals my family's journey across the country over the generations, from New Hampshire to Missouri, to Kansas, Oregon, and then Arizona. What the census can't reveal is what I want to know most: what was it like for Gladys to be a single mother? Did she communicate with her neighbors who spoke other languages? Who did she buy this bracelet from? What were her thoughts about these places she moved through, her thoughts on the violently expanding country and the people displaced?

I also wonder how hard the answers would be for me to hear.

I've never been to Arizona, or to many these states my ancestors lived in. It feels very far away from my life on the East Coast. When I wear this bracelet, I feel a spark of connection to Gladys, and like I might someday be able to understand more. 

Place(s): Missouri, Oregon, Arizona, New York
Year: 1920

– Kat Lloyd

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more