Freelance writer, Susan Taylor Brown has moved her blog over to LJ, however her existing blog offers writing exercises which I'll use on those days when the ideas aren't quite flowing. Her most recent prompt: connections — what did your mother or grandmother always have in their purse?
My mom always carried the bargain basement type of purse — cheap and raggedy. They were usually very big. Large enough to carry an over ripe water melon, and just about as heavy. They had to be big because off all the important stuff she carried in there. Letters. Grocery store receipts. Phone numbers scrawled on loose sheets of paper torn from the corner of an over due electric bill. Aspirin for those long days raising four sons alone with no father. Loose change gathered at the bottom making that jingle noise as she rummaged through it in search of her car keys.
"Dern-it, dern-it, I can't find them!" she'd say, in a high-pitched cry, frustrated and biting the palm of her hand. She did that when she got really upset about something. The strap of her purse would be torn around the edges, weighted down from the bulk of organized pandemonium. It was stressed at the seams from a back and forth swing as mom sauntered from place to place. Her arms swung hard. Her walk had rhythm. Her purses took a beating, but because they were cheap, they were easily replaced. I alway felt a sense of sadness when mom replaced her purse. It had grown on me. Out with the old, in with another old one.
My grandma also carried a purse. I have no idea what she carried in there, and venturing to find out would have proven fatal. It was always neatly closed and zipped tight the many times she sent me to fetch it. She kept it on a step stool which sat in a corner beneath her phone on the wall. The stool doubled as a phonebook and newspaper holder. Grandmas purse had a odor. Not a bad odor. A grandma-purse odor. A mixture of money and I don't know what. And I never found out.
When I first met my wife, she carried a Coach. It scared me at first. My mom's purses were in the four-teen dollar range. Grandma's purses were of the second-hand garage sale variety. My wife's mother carried a Dooney, as in Dooney & Bourke. What does a woman need with a four-hundred dollar purse? Can I afford a woman whose mother carries a four-hundred dollar purse? But she's been a gem, her taste is still Coach, but she's downsized to Target.
My Poynter Institute bag serves as my carry all. A man purse one might call it. It's green with the Poynter Institute's logo screen printed across the canvas front. With brown leather accents, brass rivets and zippers this bag is a man's bag. A graphic reporter's tote. I fill it with those same things my mom filled her purse with. Everything. And who knows what else. And I couldn't find it if I needed to.
Susan and I share a byline in the children's anthology, Jump at the Sun. She as the author of Can I pray with my eyes open, and me as illustrator of Say Hey! A song of Willie Mays.