My Most Treasured Heirloom

I am resubmitting my essay! I hope it wins this time!!

My Most Treasured Heirloom

By: Kadie Chronister

Although just 27 years old, I’m now a successful store manager in Manhattan whose career started in trendy South Florida, and that might lead you to believe that I found my extraordinary and glamorous sense of style at a young age. But my personal sense of style and my free spirit took shape when my great grandmother rescued my middle sister and I from an adoption home after my drug-addicted parents had lost hope. My Granny, Elizabeth Chronister, at age 63, gave up relaxing through her retirement years to raise two young children because she believed we deserved a far better chance at living than where we were headed.
Similar to Sara Blakely, CEO and founder of Spanx, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in textiles and consumer science from Florida State University, and since then have been moving up within the fashion industry through different retailers such as Nordstrom, Anthropologie, and LOFT, creating a strong trademark for management and a diverse personal wardrobe.
At a very young age, I knew what it was like to feel thankful and acquired the habit of “thrift shopping” by rummaging through Goodwill finds, bags of hand-me-downs given to us by church members, and charity shopping sprees paid for by other family members and friends. My grandmother did not have a lot of money and was not able to shower my sister and me with gifts like many grandmas are known to do. She barely had energy to attend my soccer games.
One summer afternoon, when I was about 11, I was rummaging through my grandmother’s closet, trying on swing skirts and platforms, when she called me to her. She had her jewelry box open, and she gave me the first and only gift I have to remember her by to this day. It is a silver feather charm with a turquoise stone embedded, held on a unique silver cable chain that Granny told me had been handcrafted for her by a Cherokee Indian – a tribe Granny’s family had had relations with for a century or longer. Native Americans were often inspired by natural objects when crafting jewelry designs and they created pieces as life symbols. When I clasp that chain around my neck, I am inspired by who I am and where I came from, and I’m reminded to be proud of that.
Granny also taught me to be independent and to continue to learn. She preached the value of a dollar and the belief that family and the people you love come first. Listening to her cry herself to sleep after counting her penny jar – which made us worry that she regretted taking us in – and sometimes going to school with no lunch money were hard lessons to learn, but they have made me who I am.
The generation gap in my upbringing – I was 2 when I went to live with Granny – is reflected in my style and made evident by the most stable piece in my Granny-inspired wardrobe. I have had ex-boyfriends tell me that I dress like a “grandma” as an insult, but it was very much a compliment to me, and I have received gifts inspired by this necklace that is a mirror for me.
My grandmother shared with me her love for reading and writing, and I am thankful of the memories I have of endless hours lying next to her in her bedroom sharing this passion. I was the first kindergartener in my class to learn to read, and Granny stood proudly in the audience, smiling ear to ear, to hear my achievement announced. When I moved away to college, we wrote each other letters, and she always told me how proud she was of me. I wish I could tell her my newest accomplishments – she would be so happy for me. Sometimes, when I experience writer’s block for my blog, or when I miss her terribly, I slip on my most treasured heirloom for strength, and for inspiration.
When I want to reflect on my life, I wear this necklace and look back at where it has been and who has been near, and I smile proudly. It’s always been the choice accessory for all big events in my life, and it will continue to be for the rest of my life. My most special necklace walked across the stage with me as I accepted my diploma at high school graduation, even though Granny “threatened” to not show because of a teenage spat (she was there, though, as she always tried to be). It accessorized my gowns at both of my sisters’ weddings as I traveled to Naples, Florida, and Virgin Gorda, Virgin Islands. It was my choice of “flare” as I served tables to get myself through college. And it was the perfect expression and symbol of my unique style on every important job interview I’ve been on since.
I’ve learned that you can’t always change the past, but you can always change your clothes. And I know that this necklace changed my life because my grandmother changed hers.


4 thoughts on “My Most Treasured Heirloom

  1. Kadie! This is by far your most touching blog! It was the first time I read it & still is!!!! And weather or not it’s chosen to win in your submission , it’s definitely a winner!!!!!
    I truly miss ya @ work! But @ the same time thank you! Since your move to NY & keeping in touch with me, it has , I believe, helped me get to where I am & have the opportunities I’ve been given! Also to meet & work for more wonderful people! So again thank you! And plz, keep writing !
    Luv , Janine

  2. Pingback: This Also, Shall Pass | Self Made

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