It’s that season again… time to change my purse over for the summer. Yes, I’m two months late, but better late than black leather in August.
Actually, I couldn’t care less about what I carry. My mother is the only reason I know about purses. (I still don’t know about shoes, as proven by the tore-up Skechers I wear everywhere.)
Even now, at 84, Mom hangs on to her nifty collection of clutches, shoulder totes, boxy clasp handbags and an amazing antique alligator purse. I used to play with that one during church. When one of us kids got restless, she’d snap open the clasp, pull out a roll of Certs and pass it around. My earliest memories of the Episcopal Church are the sweet smell of Certs and the pillbox hats my mother always wore. That and being allowed to drink coffee at the post-service social hour. (My parents were odd that way: As a teen I couldn’t date, experiment with makeup or wear a bikini—but I’d been drinking coffee for 10 years.)
Back to the pocketbooks: I guarantee Mom didn’t give a fig about the alligator that died to make her purse. She kept it in her closet next to the mink wrap handed down from her aunt. Sometimes she wore both to the important Eastern Star meetings. Today she’d probably be splashed with paint while walking down the street.
I do not have the purse gene but I do carry one, like 99.9999 percent of women. Honestly, I’d be satisfied with toting a plastic grocery bag. In college, I went through a wonderful, rebellious phase when I carried only a leather wallet. It was so liberating! But not all women’s pants have pockets and most skirts don’t, so pretty soon it was back to a bag.
I find mine at thrift stores and consignment shops. Widdle is great at spotting a good one. This year’s model is a funky red number with black and white zebra stripes on the sides. It actually looks like something a crazy woman would carry, which of course is why he bought it for me.
Recently, an article in “Glamour” or “Good Housekeeping” or some other magazine I never have time to read had an article listing what the well-stocked purse should contain. Sensible items like aspirin, comb, mini-flashlight, spare house and car keys, billfold, ink pens, compact with mirror, eyeglass cleaner, safety pins, collapsible umbrella, hand cream, nail file, emergency pair of earrings, healthy snacks and, of course, breath mints.
I read this with growing horror, because my purse actually contains: A wad of crumpled receipts; lint-covered Lifesavers; hairbrush with broken handle; leaky—or dry--ball-point pens; seven half-used lipsticks; battery charger for a flip phone I lost in 2010; expired credit cards, library cards and cough drops; random vitamins; dusty raisins; small cracked mirror; a 2009 rabies tag; broken earrings; tangled necklace; 78 cents in change; and one dead smartphone.
The only thing between me and disaster is the green LL Bean backpack I always keep in the car. It usually contains workout gear, bottled water, protein bars, a towel, my ancient and beloved iPod shuffle and, for reasons I can’t currently recall, several quart-sized Ziploc bags. It’s roomy and comfortable, and I love it more than any purse. But I’d look weird walking into church with a backpack slung over my shoulder.
I think it’s time to borrow Mom’s alligator bag.
Julie R. Smith, who hopes to come back as a marsupial, can be reached at email@example.com.