For months one of my granddaughters took her small blue purse everywhere. It hung from her chair at dinner, learned multiplication tables in school during the day and dreamt about fairies and wizards at night. A faithful companion, if there ever was one.
I’m not sure what she kept in its cool rayon embrace, but over time she pulled out a notebook, a couple of chewed erasers, a plastic bracelet, an unsharpened pencil and several secret notes, folded many times over to hide the clandestine contents from prying eyes.
I can totally relate. I keep the equivalent of a dry goods store in my purse.
I thought about that blue purse last week when I got an alert that it was National Handbag Day. I suspect this was a marketing ploy, since the email urged me to indulge, just in time for fall, on a new “treat” from Dooney & Bourke or J.Crew or whatever other manufacturer I cannot afford. But if hotdogs and ice cream can claim an entire day, purses most certainly have earned the right for equal treatment.
There’s something about purses, something magical and mysterious, full of promise and adventurous potential. They safeguard our best intentions for the day — makeup, comb, calendar, phone, compact mirror, key ring — while also doubling as a statement of who we are and how we expect others to see us.
Several years ago at a family wedding, the wife of a relative who has made it big in business sported a cute purse that I happened to compliment. When the wife was out of earshot, my cousin whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “Do you know how much that thing costs?”
I had not a clue. I usually buy my purses from the clearance rack at TJ Maxx — and only on Mondays because I get the 10 percent senior discount.
My cousin announced a four-digit figure. I swooned in shock. The purse was cute and it smelled nice, of fine leather and something just as refined — but not that cute.
Still, who am I to judge? After all, women have a special relationship with their purses. Nothing can come between a woman and her handbag. Not a man. Not a job. Not a swoon-worthy price tag. Yes, men wear fanny bags. They lug around tool boxes and strap on backpacks. But none comes close to the intimacy and comfort of a purse. Handbags are the closest thing to a friend, but less judgmental and several times more practical.
Some prefer their purse to be roomy, others small. Some like the black-hole effect, where digging for a wallet is a common occurrence, while others insist on pockets. I belong to the latter group. The more pockets the merrier. I like tidy. I like organized. I like everything in its place, so I can slip my hand in and know exactly where to find car keys or smartphone or notebook and pen. Zipper compartments set my heart aflutter.
At one time or another, my purses have doubled as lunch box, file folder and laptop protector. In them I’ve stored a folded raincoat, a travel manicure set, Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes and a small cylinder of Tylenol. A bookmark with a Bible quote, too, and a small tin of chocolate and an energy bar. I’m convinced I could survive a day or two in the wild with the contents of my purse.
Purses are indispensable to a woman’s peace of mind. I, for one, feel naked and adrift if I don’t have one slung over an arm or a shoulder. The interior of a purse is about the only place where I can exert total control. And, take my word for it, that uncommon feeling of command is as priceless and essential as a good belly laugh on a worrisome day.