Mom’s Purse


My mother always carried a purse and every purse looked the same: Basic black, small handle and big enough to hold anything she may have to produce at any given moment. I used to kid her and tell her she could go on Let’s Make a Deal, and win if she added a boiled egg. Monty always seemed to ask for those. I believe a snapshot into mom’s purse was a snapshot into her mind: or, better said; “what was she thinking carrying that in her purse…for twenty years?”

Mary Poppins and my mother had similar purses. When Mary pulled out a lamp from her purse I was not as impressed as a child should be. My mother had been pulling anything I ever needed from her purse on time and in universal sync with me ever since I was able to hold memories: she was my own Mother Poppins. Even the spoonful of sugar idea was used in every cough drop she produced from the black bag whenever I coughed. She always had tissues, too, but they were always in a crumbled up mess. I never did trust mom’s tissues. I should mention that in my next therapy session.

The purse was an elusive beast. She could never find it. All of her children knew The Call. “Where’s my purse? Has anyone seen my purse? Where’s my purse?” With that cry, all of us HAD to stop what we were doing, even if it was in the bathroom, and join the search for her purse. Easter eggs were a pleasure to find- her purse was a heavy burden. No one could rest until we heard the next cry that she ‘found it’ and how weird that it was just ‘right there,’ and how she didn’t remember putting it there. Hello? Captain Obvious?

What I remember most about the purse was the green stamps. She would stuff mounds of stamps into the purse and at some random moment we would be called to the dining room table and put the green stamps into the green stamp booklets. Each session would last hours, with green stamps left unlicked, and incomplete books placed willy nilly in the stack of completed books. It just didn’t matter because after years of collecting and licking stamps our family had nothing to show for the effort. Mom never did redeem those stamps; the hundreds of books cluttered the hutch. Now I wonder if she was collecting them for the big prize… maybe a new life in Aruba.

Mom’s purse was never stylish and never cost more than a few dollars. I was raised by a woman whose only criteria for a purse was that it was black, big and would clasp shut. It was usually a clasp issue that sent her looking for a new bag. Whenever she transferred the contents from the old purse to the new one, I pulled up a front row seat and watched. It was indeed a spectacle, an unveiling of all the contents in the old purse by dumping them on a table. It was always astonishing how big the pile was compared to the compartment in which it has been housed. It takes talent to stuff a purse and still find the keys to the house! Only during purse transfers did she sort the contents and throw two to three items away. Tissues were always in the trash pile. (Oprah, I just had an Ah Ha moment!) The new purse would then be stuffed with the old items and with transfer complete, the purse would be promptly placed somewhere..and be lost until we all helped to find it.

The cycle of the purse.

I marvel at the many styles of purses and admit I have no idea why any woman would HAVE to HAVE a certain purse. I carry an old purse, but since I don’t comprehend what is in style or not in style, I can only guess the look is fine. The magnet clasp is giving me trouble- the sign a new purse is needed. I have tried to open my mind to the artistic beauty of the expensive bags. I have watched a style show on purses and still, I just don’t get it. Why would ANY woman, even the Real Housewives, pay thousands of dollars for a purse? Is it the designer name that brings the bucks or the design? I am guessing bags are like modern art: The beauty is in the eyes of the people one runs with.

Luckily, my circle of friends are not into thousand dollar purses. If they were, I still wouldn’t care. When I look for a bag I am a lot like my mom; basic color that will go with anything and big enough to hold the stuff I want with me at all times. I probably wouldn’t win anything on Let’s Make a Deal, and of course there aren’t any loose green stamps bottom feeding on dust particles…oh, and,  MY tissues are in a plastic wrapper.

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3 thoughts on “Mom’s Purse

  1. Well, the only thing I guess that I can brag about on is that we actually did get something with our “little green stamps” and those darn booklets! (And I bet that mom is still using that 30 year old hand mixer we got with them!!) Great memory, Kim!

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