her purse

To while away time while she gets her hair cut, I check out her purse.  What’s inside makes me laugh and cry––the sash to her caretaker’s robe, carefully folded up; a few loose coins (in the old days, those coins would have been where they were supposed to be, in her wallet); recent greeting cards she’s received; earrings; and two old fig newtons, crumbling and adding crumbs to the coins. The fig newtons make me laugh. But what makes me cry is coming across her wallet’s photo of Dad, just floating there, not in its proper place. She took it out of its sleeve and then couldn’t remember how to get it back or maybe even to put it back. So I put him where he belongs and where he’s been ever since I can remember. He’s the only photo now in her wallet––a wallet once packed with credit cards and cash and photos of family, symbolic of her famed organization and her abundance. Dad’s somber  face looks toward the camera. It’s getting harder, Dad, I think, and I imagine his face watchful, waiting on her……………….

A woman’s purse is personal and so representative of each individual woman. What we carry in it. Purses we’ve loved. The events to which they were witness. A wonderfully creative Houston artist, Mary Margaret Hansen, has a website just about purses and their stories. My Mom’s story is Alzheimer’s, and her purse shows it. What’s yours?

I’d love to know….


11 responses to “her purse

  1. O.k… here goes because you asked. Its like an archeological dig.

    red wallet– flowers and a butterfly on the front
    a card for a local pilates studio
    a card for something called Goddesses Gather
    receipts– Wholefoods, a tea shop, a bookstore, a pharmacy
    Unripped ticket from the invited dress rehearsal of a Broadway musical
    program from a flamenco show
    bank statement
    several crumpled up plastic bags
    herbal liquid lipstick
    One stray penny
    One stray almond
    herbal “hair nourishing serum”
    small notebook
    several pens
    dog fur

    Story of an NYC artist/herbalist who is having a very fun life, has two dogs, and is really trying to become more organized, but is (certainly not) there yet. Actually, based on this snapshot I realize just how sort of fantastic my life is right now. Its so easy to get stuck in what I want to change about it. I just fed my dog the stray almond. She looks pleased.

    This makes me happy. I’ve just had a spiritual lesson, and I’m organizing my purse. Thank you.

    I once found 9 pairs of reading glasses in my mother’s purse. What does that say about her?

    • Bonnie Chumney

      Kate, the nine pairs of reading glasses your mother has in her purse says she is much more organized than my sister, who owns as many pairs, but seldom has a pair with her when she needs one! LOL

    • Thanks for sharing that…..love your mother’s reading glasses’ story. K

  2. Bonnie Chumney

    I have been my mother’s primary care giver for the past eight years. She was at first diagnosed with deep depression, a year after my dad passed away, and then after a couple of years, with Alzheimer’s Disease. However, it turned out a year or more after the latter diagnosis, to actually be a rarer form of dementia called Frontotemporal Dementia. She lost her ability to communicate very early in the disease, as this dementia affected that part of the brain which controlled speech and motor. Eventually, she forgot how to walk, and lastly, how to swallow. A lovely special lady, she was. Despite the disease, she was filled with joy and laughter right up to a month before her death. When her joy and laughter left her, and she had grown tired of this life, my sisters and I were ready to let her go. She was able to spend this past Christmas with Jesus. How could we deny her this joy?

  3. I guess in all honesty not only does the purse define the way we live… Being a fashion statement or a small yet practical backpack style like I carry, a la L.L.Bean. What I carry inside defines my day to day, the loose coupons hurriedly clipped, the sunglasses held in their case. The eyeglasses for the days my eyes are weak. The wallet filled with the overextended plastic.

    But what I delight in most and find I am proud to carry are the sweet love notes scribbled on sticky notes my husband left in different and often surprising places for me over the years. If anyone dug deep enough to the bottom depths of my necessary items, the Stow’n Go Pocket Kite. It waits for one of those moments when the wind takes me and I want to be amused.

    I guess the purse is a pocket of one’s very soul.

  4. Aunt Esther Levy could make anything—she could knit and crochet, she could sew, and cook, and grow strawberries in her yard. She could needle point, and embroider. She made the most awesome popsicles on earth—with Kool-Aid and Seven Up.

    Back in the fifties, she went to NYC and she came back with some purse forms and beads for knitting and she began making the most extraordinary beaded bags. She made them for friends and relatives—they paid for the materials—and she also made them to sell among her “fans” in the Nacogdoches, Texas community where she lived and ran a domestic arts store out of her home. She gave lessons, sold the materials to her students, and sold hand made items to customers. Eventually Stephen F. Austin invited her to teach a domestic arts class for them.

    My mother, who didn’t have a materialistic bone in her body, was dying for one of these fabulous hand-made beaded bags, and my Grandma Pepper, her mother-in-law through my then late father—wanted to learn how to make the bags herself. and agreed to make one for my mother. Grandma Pepper could make things of beauty too—Aunt Esther ordered the materials and instructed my grandmother and voila: the bag you see here in this picture is the very bag she made my mother back in the fifties.

    I cherish this little bronze/copper gem and I have all my life. My mother actually gave it to me long ago, probably in the 80s as she grew older because she knew I’d get more use of it than she did.

    In 2005, when I first moved to Houston, my brother Phil came to visit. Phil once played professional baseball and with me the only girl among five boys, he paid little attention to me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until he got cancer around seven years ago and began coming into town to stay in my home during treatments that we became close siblings. In fact, that we became siblings at all.

    During one of those visits, Phil organized his medical visit to coordinate with a family wedding, to which I wore Mom’s beaded purse. “Wow,” Phil said. “I remember that purse—Mom loved that thing.”

    He got all teary eyed. And no wonder: this purse inspired by the love and art of one woman, and created by the love and talent of another flooded both of us with memories of joy. And beauty. It remains an heirloom of my mother, Frances Levy Kalman Rose, a legacy of my Aunt Esther and my Grandma Pepper, a tribute to their creative spirit, and a remnant of a past that survives the flesh it commemorates.

    (I can send a picture if you want.)

  5. I sent you the picture. Not sure if I can put it on here. Will wait to hear from you.

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