Thursday, August 11, 2005


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.


Friar Tuck said...

This is so funny! Good writing.

My mother goes more for the "sport purse" variety of things. Although, I am not sure she uses a purse very much anymore.

As for man purses, I use a backpack.

Pens pencils, money and phone in front pocket. CD player and headphones in middle pocket. Books to read and CD wallets in big pocket.

Ol' Buddy said...

Nice blog Donny. Brought back a lot of memories I have long forgotten. Thx- I needed that!

Don Tate II said...

@ ol' buddy: Made my day that you stopped by!

Kim said...

Who knew purses could be so interesting! How's that memoir coming? You have a great voice. If you can write about your life the way you write about purses, the book will sell millions!

captain_howdy_girl said...

My Grandmother always had tissues, and you used one whether you needed to or not.

I pride myself on carrying things like bandaids and Tylenol, everyone know they can come to me if they don't feel well.

I also carry dog cookies but you probably knew that.

The Gig said...

I would say that your description of my purse reminds me of your truck inside *wide, wide grin*

Brea said...

Funny post! My grandmother used her bossoms to carry her money - I wonder what kind of purse she would have carried . . .

Quen said...

Growing up I only remember my mom carrying purses on Sunday, and that was to attend church. I really don't remember what was in it, except for the gum or hard candy. * smile *

As for me, I use to be the Coach type. Well, I still am, ocasionally. ( LOL ) Being a mom, I prefer something cheap and durable. And I only carry the essentials. You know ( digital camera, rechargeable batteries, cell phone, makeup, etc.) things I really need. My purse currently weighs a little under 4 lbs. * LOL *

Luke Cage said...

Siiighh.. I see you have a wife who's into the Coach bag phenomenon too. They make some very nice looking bags though. Just can't understand the pricetag. (scratching my head)

I was expecting it to do something incredible with the amount of money I spent for it. Like, keep her money locked down in her wallet for instance... Now, that would be a neat trick. Hm, I'm just saying... lol Nice writing brotha.

Aziza said...

This morning when I first woke up, I turned on my computer to be consulted by the blogworld about happenings and thangs. I came on this blog and fell out laughing immediately at reading that your mother's purse was large enough to carry a ripe watermelon. When I was a little girl many women carried those type of purses, because it carried everything including a wallet, first aid kit, car keys, house keys, lipstick, blush, loose change, address book, plastic rain scarf, tissue, chewing gum, mints, small pad of paper, pen, medicine, perfume, dental floss, etc. It was like a magic trick bag. I bet a rabbit could have been pulled from it if we tried hard enough.

When I got out on my own after college, I use to carry a bag from K-Mart, but the strap tore off in 2 weeks. For now on, I have to stick with the real leather bags. But they cost way too much. I, too, like your wife carry Coach bags. My excuse or justification for carrying those bags are because they are very sturdy and don't tear up easily. But I must confess that my purse is busting loose, because I have so much in it.

Miss A said...

My Grandma's purse... mmmm
Always cheap... and always had DOUBLEMINT and/or FREEDENT chewing gum in it! We could always rely on her to pop out some chewing gum!

My purses:
I have a purple Dooney & Burke purse that I love and treasure! My mom bought it accidentally as a Christmas gift (Lord knows I can't afford them), because it was a purple purse and purple is my favorite color. She got a great deal on it though!!! I carry all types of things in my purses: money, ID's, receipts from various places, gum wrappers, etc. The rest of my purses range from $14-$30... the most expensive purse I purchases was my MUDD shoulder purse. I LOVE IT during the summer time! And with my jeans... my older sis gave me a denim purse with black lining, that has black pompoms around the zipper AND of course, MY initials on the bag! One of her friends made the purse for her!

BTW... ladies... and gents who sew... homemade purses are becoming a HUGE hit!!!!

Christopher M. Beatrice said...

lol my mom always carried the great big garage sale purses too. Now she prefers these tiny things that she is older lol.

ManNMotion said...

Seems to me you have a very good wife and, based on that singular data, perhaps I should only date Coach kind of women.

Seriously, one thing about a woman's purse is that I never go in them. Like when they say "can you grab my wallet out of my purse?" I just hand them the whole purse. I don't know what they keep in there and I don't want to find out!

Quel said...

I don't know what it is about women and purses. I have bags in my closet that I've never even carried, but for some reason I keep going to TJ Maxx on Fridays (the one by my house restocks on Thurdays) to see what discounted designer bags are in. The same with shoes. It's a sickness:)

princessdominique said...

lol @ overripe watermelon!

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Hey Don, I'm tickled that my writing prompt bought on such great writing from you. I'm with Kim on your voice. I hope you're still plugging away on the memoir in all that spare time you've got.

And thanks for all the plugs.

My mom's purse was always one of those hard fake leather ones that could snap a kid's finger in two when it shut. Her wallet was one of those huge things that had everything folded into one. A compact. Bright red lipstick. A travel-size pack of Kleenex. Gum, usually Doublemint and one of these neat little plastic glasses that folded back down into itself so it was flat when you stored it and then you shook it out and you had a cup to get water from the drinking fountain.

My grandmother had much the same except she wouldn't carry Kleenex, only a cloth hanky.