Smith Says: Purse-preparedness

  • Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I hate to brag, but me and my purse have got it going on.
Or is it a pocketbook, bag, handbag, shoulder bag or tote? My Midwestern aunt always said “pocketbook,” which is charming in the quaint way that homemade pickles and afghans are charming.
My great-grandmother called her purse—a gigantic, long-handled embroidered affair with a wooden frame, almost like a sewing bag—a portmanteau, but she always did have delusions of grandeur.  I came of age in the 70s, when hip chicks carried fringed suede pouches—cute, but no good if you wanted to carry more than a comb, a mood ring and a couple of Bonne Bell Lip Smackers.
But back to my bag today. In my closet I have four that I rotate when I think about it, which is never. My favorite is a Liz Claiborne shoulder bag of green brocade trimmed with gold. It’s well-balanced, structured—hobo bags may be stylish, but I gave mine away because I could never find my keys without dumping everything out—roomy and just elegant enough to say “I mean bidness but am not a bee-yotch. Unless you get on my bad side.”
I like to keep my purse well-stocked for life’s little emergencies. (I’ve flown halfway across the country with nothing but this purse and an L.L. Bean backpack. I hate to check luggage.)
The zenith of my glory days of purse-preparedness came several years ago. An old friend was in town for a long weekend and we went to church on a cloudy Sunday morning.
In the car, I pulled my compact from my purse to check my teeth for lipstick. (Yes, I’ve been caught with pink-speckled teeth a time or two.) As we walked in I handed him a mint from my purse. As we sat down he sneezed and I plucked forth a Kleenex.
Then I pulled out my purse-sized Bible, checkbook for the offering and reading glasses. Right before communion he appeared to have a choking fit (he was a sickly lad), and I whipped out a cough drop. When they announced that week’s committee meetings, I pulled out my trusty day-planner and slim gold pen and carefully scribbled down the details. Then I entered the dates and reminders in my phone.
As we left church it started to rain. I briskly shook the rector’s hand, produced a six-inch telescoping umbrella from my purse, snapped it open and off we went. By this time, my friend’s eyes were the size of quarters.
“Were you a Boy Scout?” he asked, in all sincerity.
“No, I’m just incredibly controlling and neurotic,” I explained. It’s true: I hate to be caught off guard by circumstance.
But even I am bested by my friend Floozy, whose purse is the Holy Grail of life’s little emergency kits. One day she triumphantly plucked a melon baller from her purse with these immortal words: “For when you want to make pimento-cheese stuffed cucumbers on the way home from church.”
I gazed mutely at the double-ended utensil as the universe tilted on its axis. Floozy saw my expression and clucked her tongue.
“Oh, come on,” she said impatiently.” You know how there’s always leftovers after a church dinner? Like a veggie tray, and dips? You can take a half cucumber, scoop it out lengthwise and tuck pimento cheese down into the groove. With one hand.”
I smiled and pulled two ibuprofen… from my purse.
Julie R. Smith, who has smuggled salami sandwiches on a plane in her purse, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.

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