I like to imagine that my grandmother had a pure jade bracelet that was just for her from the beginning and that she wore every day. Perhaps only once did she slide it over her slender, wrinkled fingers, force it gently over the stone mountain ridges of her knuckles and let it rest along her wrist until the day she died, even keeping it as a companion to her later bracelet of polyester and adjustable plastic clasp given to her by the hospital. Or maybe each morning when she awoke, she would fumble her hand over to the nightstand in the dark, and the cool jade would be the very first thing she felt and it would glide over her hand as a glove, ready to protect her from another day in a country that was friendly enough but would just never be her homeland.
There are different colors of jade that indicate a variety of origins and clues of quality, but this is a hierarchy I am not familiar with. I think of my grandmother and imagine that her jade bracelet would change colors with her mood – a green like water after spinach has been boiled down, when she was tired from cooking for three generations as her husband puffed on his pipe and studied ancient maps. The bold green of a bamboo forest, when she remembered her courageous days as a nurse as the Communists marched closer and closer. A light green bordering on yellow like Chinese cabbage in the sunlight when she played with her grandchildren, even with me, quiet in my early years and wanting to speak more English than Chinese, ignorant of so much more than the strong, beautiful elements of jade.