Written by Mattie Kahn, illustration by Charlotte Fassler
I like to think of myself as a rational person. I don’t hold my breath when I drive past cemeteries. I spill salt and walk under ladders and step on cracks with near-reckless abandon. One time, I shattered a hand-mirror, and here I am! Not noticeably worse off for it.
According to my mother, I outgrew any residual childhood mysticism after my eleventh birthday came and went with nary a text message from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (My conviction that if wizards did exist, I would be one is unfortunately revealing.)
But don’t be fooled by this show of level-headedness. It is not without exception. Because while I’ve long proclaimed disdain for Astrology Zone and rabbits’ feet and herbal remedies, there is one realm in which my pragmatism fails: jewelry. Somehow—despite loud internal protestations to the contrary—I’ve always secretly believed that a certain brand of magic inhabits the pieces I wear daily.
When I was in first grade, my father brought home with him a heart-shaped pendant from a business trip to Dallas. He slipped it onto a silver chain and pressed the cool stone ornament into my palm. “See?” he said, showing me a gentle groove in its center. “You’re supposed to rub it for good luck.”
When I wore it to school the next day, I told my longstanding crush that it was an ancient Aztec talisman.
“My dad bought it from a hobo!” I reported gleefully.
“Cool.” Jeremy said, promptly deeming it his “good luck charm” as well.
“Wow,” I marveled wordlessly, “it’s working already!”
To hell with logic. The supernatural necklace was the indisputable source of my confidence and wit and (mostly) good hair days. It was an indicator of my future happiness and an omen for my eventual success and well-being. As far as I was concerned, it would be removed only in the event of its being forcibly wrested from my person.
Even years later—long after I’d purportedly lost faith in both its enchantment and Jeremy’s—I felt a pang of loss when I accidentally dropped it and watched it crack in half. “Well, that’s probably a bad sign,” I thought, as I stared at the two jagged pieces. “Not that it means anything,” I hastened to remind my calcified, jaded self.
But quietly, I put stock in other trinkets, too: my grandmother’s keychain, a gold locket, a crystal that had been billed as quartz but felt like plastic. They rattled around in the depths of my bags, and—like the heart-shaped rock before them—their presence comforted me. At the very least, I argued to myself, they couldn’t hurt.
When I turned fifteen, I began wearing a watch and felt naked without it. When I was sixteen, I bought a hammered silver ring in Israel and all but refused to remove it thereafter. (Spelled out in tiny etched letters across its surface is a Harry Potter quote rendered in a foreign tongue. I make no apologies.) Two years ago, I introduced a duo of bracelets to this real-time installation. They’ve been on my wrist ever since.
Maybe I’m confusing superstition and sentimentality. Maybe I’m not giving my still-sound mind enough credit. All I know is that when I occasionally forget to don these pieces each morning, I feel noticeably more fragile. They are my chosen armor. They are (deep breath) my good-luck charms.
So much so that in my junior year of high school I came an agonizing ten minutes late to the SATs because I momentarily misplaced the aforementioned ring. Don’t worry. I found it in the end. Really, how else do you think I got into Harvard?