The women I grew up with didn’t have a different purse to match all their outfits.—Rhea Seehorn
This morning I woke up to the delightful news in my inbox that today is National Handbag Day. Thank you, Vera, for alerting me to this exciting tidbit of information! I’ve had to hide that email in an effort to dissuade myself from going straight to their site and treating myself to a new piece or two, or three or four or five, in celebration.
My closest confidants are much aware that I, Dixie Jackson, am a complete and unabashed pocketbook junkie. I love them! Round ones, square ones, big ones, small ones. Over the shoulder, cross-body, backpack style. I love them all! And I love to spread it around. Most everyone in my life has received a new pocketbook from me at one time or other, and when I over-abuse my credit card at Vera’s place, they’re the people I call when the closet will not hold another single bag and the collection needs thinned.
Much like Rhea Seehorn, the women I grew up with and were raised by didn’t have a vast collection of bags, one for every outfit they owned. They had “occasion bags.” They had the work purse, the going out purse, the vacation purse, and a funeral purse. Purses were to carry the “essentials.” Essentials included, but were not limited, to: wallet, tissue, tampon, lipstick, pen and paper, the little rolled up plastic hair umbrella thingy (anyone else remember those?), a pack of gum, ciggies if you smoked them, peppermint candies, two lighters-one for the ciggies one for the eyeliner also in the purse, a compact, hair brush, a paper clip, a spare diaper, perfume samples, and about ten pounds of loose change all lying at the bottom of the bag. And the list went on and on and on. It was virtually limitless what you might find in any of the ladies’ bags on any given day. One might have even found a day-old sandwich if they looked hard enough.
Remember that show Let’s Make a Deal? I think there may be a remake of it playing on television to this day. There was a segment of that show where the host would call a woman out of the audience and ask her for specific items from her purse. For every item she could produce, there was a cash prize. I think the amount was $100 per item, but I could be imagining that part. Anyway, let me assure you, any single one of the women I grew up with or was raised by could have made a killing if they’d ever been the one called up to produce a dill pickle from their beloved bag, the going out one at that. It’d have to be the going out one since being on a game show would have been a big event.
My obsession with bags, I do believe, began in my grandmother’s wardrobe. Yes, a wardrobe. Not a closet, but an actual, no kidding, hand-built cedar wardrobe. It had two sides, one for her hanging clothes and one for Grandpa’s. Beneath the hanging clothes were shoes lined up neatly, also “occasioned.” The garden shoes, the going to town shoes, church shoes, vacation shoes, party shoes, and funeral shoes. Underneath the “closet” portion of the wardrobe was a storage space running the length of the wardrobe which held linens and things, and somewhere in the midst of all the clothes, linens, and shoes, was Grandma’s purse stash. She had some of the greatest pocketbooks ever! Except for her going to the store purse, they were mostly vintage, and mostly off limits unless we were allowed to play with them as long as we were super careful not to damage them. Oh, how I loved to play dress-up with her stash. I’d don a pair of high heels, many sizes too large, string some costume jewelry from her dresser round my neck, and drape one of her vintage pocketbooks across my forearm. I always felt very classy bedecked in all that finery. And that is where I believe the junkie status began.
I started carrying a purse at around the fourth grade. While I really had no tangible need to carry one at that point in my life, I was insistent I had to have my purse. I think I remember my first bag being one my mom made me out of old blue jeans. It was divine, y’all! How I wish I had that purse now. I have no idea what happened to it, but, alas, it is gone. As the years went on, the purses got bigger and more colorful, and just as full of the “essentials” as any of the women’s who I grew up with. Lip gloss, wallet, feminine products, eventually a lighter or two, the occasional ciggie, a condom at one time since it was fashionable for all the girls to carry one during the 80s when everyone was a virgin but was also scared to death of herpes and AIDs and pregnancy. You needed a condom “just in case.” Gum, diapers in my 20s, candies, tissue, a paper clip, notepad and pen, phones came in during the 90s… And ten pounds of loose change all the way in the bottom of the bag.
Not only did the bags get bigger and more colorful, they also became more expensive as time passed because I was able to afford higher end things thanks to my beloved. And the quantity grew and grew and grew. I had and/or have bags for all the “occasions.” Evening bags for the military balls I’ve attended over the years, the going out bags, the vacation bags, date night bags, work bags, shopping bags, farmer’s market day bags, funeral bags…they’ve all graced my closet shelves at one time or other. At one time they came in every brand imaginable. These days, I am pretty much solely devoted to Vera. And that is how I came across the email announcing the grand news that today is National Handbag Day.
What’s a girl to do?
And speaking of bags, I was reminded of something this morning when I discovered the email. It may have even struck the spark I need to get back to writing like I mean it. Here’s a peek into the current WIP, S3 series book 2, Recoil, where Cord finds himself denied entry to Chloe’s bag and he can’t figure out why. True, a woman’s purse is sacred, but by his estimation, he’s seen it all, so what’s the big deal?
“It’s in my pocketbook,” Chloe answered, pushing up from the perch she’d assumed on the opposite end of the couch as Lucy.
“Stay put. I’ll get it.”
Cord headed across the living room just as Chloe jumped to her feet and nearly knocked him sideways scooting past him in a beeline for her room. Before he even made the hallway, she disappeared through the door and was coming back with her phone in her hand.
What the hell was that all about? True, they hadn’t seen each other in ages, but what was the big deal? It wasn’t like Cord hadn’t seen the contents of the woman’s purse before. It seemed like pretty standard fare from what he could recall; wallet, lipstick, pen and paper, a Ruger .380 as a supplement to the Glock she carried at her side, some kind of hair accessory, a hair brush, lip balm, a rubber band, tissue, a couple of receipts, a variety of single dose OTC meds, phone, tampons, travel size lotion, deodorant, a plastic spoon, and around ten pounds of loose change all the way in the bottom. He realized the neatness quotient of her pocketbook was at the other end of the scale in comparison to her household tidiness, but it wasn’t like he wasn’t privy to this great secret of hers. And by his estimation, the purse couldn’t possibly get much more cluttered than it had been, so what was it she was afraid of him seeing?