These beads were very special to me, especially the big red one, the big orange one, the little translucent one next to the yellow one, the big pale green one and the steel-blue angular one in between the paler blue one and the small olive green one. The reason those beads were special is because they were the oldest. I had gotten them several years ago at a youth worker's convention. They were part of a large exhibit about the horrors that happen to children in Africa. Most of it was about the AIDS epidemic, but it also dealt with malnutrition and kidnapping and child soldiers. It was very sad. The way it worked was that you pretended to be a young child in Africa and you went through the exhibit, which was set-up in a similar manner to a fun house at the fair, except instead of funny mirrors and a rope ladder, you had to sit and wait in an AIDS clinic until a nurse let you through and in one part you had to sleep on the floor with some straw for a pillow. Along the way, there were pictures with stories about the horrible things that children in Africa have to endure.
At the end, there was a bead station where participants were encouraged to make a bracelet for themselves to remember what they had seen. I chose to make a rainbow one so that it would have a dual meaning, and I wore it until the leather strap broke. I even used it a couple of times, when someone was having a hard day, to illustrate that we don't have things so bad compared to the children in Africa. I would tell them the story of the bracelet's origin and how I wore it to remind myself of how lucky I was to have been born in the United States of America.
One day, it broke. Those 5 beads were the only ones that I was able to find, and I kept them for years, telling myself that I would one day turn them into a bracelet again. And one day, I did. That incarnation consisted of only those five beads, and I used a piece of elastic that I thought would hold up okay because it was stretchy and I thought it would just stretch instead of breaking. That one only lasted a few days before breaking while I was in class. I was only able to find three of the beads, and I was devastated that I had managed to keep those 5 beads together for so long and in one day I had somehow managed to lose the orange and green ones.
I came home very sad that night, and as I pulled off my sweater, the orange one popped out from somewhere and landed on my bed. I was so excited to find it! I was still bummed, but 4 beads was definitely better than 3. I put the beads into the bowl that I kept at the side of my bed for my keys and I went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning, determined to go to the bead shop and put the beads together into a proper bracelet so that I wouldn't lose anymore. When I looked in the bowl, I couldn't believe what I saw! Somehow, and I have no way to explain it, the green bead was lying there with the four other beads. It was a miracle! I took it as a sign that I really needed to go through with my plan and turn these beads into a bracelet. I took a long break that afternoon from work, went to a bead store, and went through almost their entire inventory to find the other 17 beads that made up the bracelet. The bracelet became even more precious to me when I learned from the woman who rang up my purchase that I had inadvertently chosen 4 beads that had originated in Africa. For those that are curious, the African beads are the other 3 blue beads besides the original steel blue one, and the yellow one.
I was wearing the bracelet for the second day when that woman said that thing to me. She was the low to my emotional roller coaster. This story is longer than I remember it being, LOL. It's getting pretty late and I have to wake up early tomorrow for class, so I need to stop for now. Stay tuned tomorrow for the conclusion to the bracelet story!