Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Friendship Bracelet History

This afternoon Friendship Bracelet Club met for the first time this school year. About 80 girls and 2 boys gathered in the LGI room after the final bell. I don't know if you've been around 12 and 13 year olds lately, but they're loud and hyper and awkward and awesome. I love that this is my life. 

This is the start of year number 6 of the FBC. I can hardly believe it. 6 years is a long time. Today I'm thinking back on all the different people that have been a part of my friendship bracelet history. 

I remember when Mary Brody and I were pen pals for several years while I was in college. She was one of my favorite campers I've ever had. We'd send each other long letters and I can still picture her neat, round, small scrawl across the pages in straight lines. When I was a Junior at Hope, living in the SIB cottage, I found an envelope from her in my mailbox one afternoon but it felt thicker than normal. I opened up the flap on the back and out fell the most beautiful bracelet I'd ever seen. It was huge and unlike any I'd ever seen before. I had to just stare at it for a couple minutes before I tied it on my wrist.

At least once a week I show up at the sporting events of my Junior High or YL kids. I love when I can get people to come along with me. Several years ago I was going to a middle school track meet between HSE and Carmel and I got my friend Allison Stamer, who had just returned from IU, to come too. She told me she had a surprise for me and pulled out a bracelet from her back. It was the first earthquake pattern I'd ever seen. The rainbow strings zig-zagged in and out of the bracelet like seismic waves. My jaw fell open.

A couple days later, Allison sat beside me and coached me as I made my first earthquake bracelet. Little did I know that this pattern would become one of my favorites.

I was horrible at making bracelets as a child. Even though I grew up at Camp Tecumseh I just didn't have the patience or the skill to make all of those tiny knots. I stuck to gymp and was happy to avoid the easily tangled string. It wasn't until the middle of my time at Hope, my Pathfinder counselor years, that I started to make bracelets. I would make them during our SIB Lit Meetings in the basement of the cottage. While we talked about sorority business and upcoming events I would tie 4-knots over and over as I worked on a 3-braid or a diamond.

My Senior year of college during Pledge I became a friendship bracelet factory. In just two weeks and three weekends I churned out 26 bracelets, one for each of our new girls. It was the most I had ever made and I was so excited to give them to all of the babies. The night they were activated I remember going around and tying the bracelets on each of their wrists. Those girls became my "friendship bracelet class" and I loved going back to visit them the next couple of years.

Molly and Kendall Brunner are one of my favorite sister pairs at Tecumseh. They weren't in my cabin until they were CILTs but somehow we became friends when they were still River Village campers. Every summer I'd eagerly await for them to get to camp and then find ways to hang out with them at the pool or during Trading Post. The Brunners became two of my Friendship Bracelet role models, so much so that we call a certain pattern the Brunner Bracelet.

I remember when they were in HS that they would each carry a ring of half-finished bracelets on their backpacks and soccer bags, ready to work on them whenever they had a spare minute.

My first year of FBC was my very first year of teaching. I was new in the school and not many students knew me so our club attendance was very small. There were about 15 girls that came that first year and I loved that group. Natalie, Saba, the Millers, the Magers, the Lexies and a few more girls made up the gang that started the legacy of FBC. I still vividly remember them bringing baggies of snacks, singing Jonas Brothers on top of their desks and playing Capture The Flag outside when it was warm enough. We didn't know then that one day FBC would be exponentially larger and that their purple FBC sweatshirts would become collector's items.

KCraig taught with me for the last five years, has been my best friend in HSE Young Life and become a friendship bracelet addict. Just over a year ago I taught her how to make a 3-braid bracelet and she hasn't stopped since. If we had a school or English meeting after school you could find us making bracelets. At YL leadership every week you could find us making bracelets. During coffee dates at Starbucks you could find us making bracelets. I love that even though she has probably made over 100 bracelets at this point she is still making that same 3-braid pattern every single time. KCraig hands the bracelets out like candy and if you get the chance to meet her you'll probably get one too.

Even though Friendship Bracelets are a very campy thing I don't actually make any friendship bracelets while I'm at camp. Between writing Parent Letters, keeping up with the blog and trying to sleep, there is just no extra time for braceleting. I call the other 42 weeks of the year Friendship Bracelet Season and build up my stockpile for summer so I can pass out bracelets to all of my friends at Tecumseh.

I've gotten really good at multi-tasking and at this point I can bracelet without looking at the strings as I work. This means I can bracelet while I watch TV, at YL, during church and anywhere else that I can pull out my string. At this point, I'm so used to braceleting that I can't sit still for very long without going crazy. My friendship bracelet count from FB Season continues to go up each year-- 52 in 2012, 100 in 2013 and a whopping 200 in 2014. Who knows if I'll be able to break that this year.

In her book Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist writes about a blue bowl that she collects pennies in. After reading that chapter I found my own blue bowl to collect pennies in too because I like copying her. But at some point it stopped being a bowl full of pennies and started being a bowl full of old bracelets. Now the mountain of faded and worn strings reminds me of old friends-- girls from Young Life, from Tecumseh and FBC. I can still remember who most of the bracelets are from. These little bracelets are treasures, reminders of so many people that have been a part of my friendship bracelet history.

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