The Summer of the Purse
It is summer.
Summer is my favorite. Though it isn’t all perfect–the air is hot and thick and heavy and crawls down my throat every time I walk out the back door with the dog—it is perfect enough. It is all my children home without the pressures of exams and projects. It is turning off of the alarm clocks and letting the rising light along the river or the hungry snorts of the dog wake me up. It is trips to summer camps and grandparents’ houses and the beach. It is skating every Monday night with friends. It is the anti-May.
This summer has been everything I had dreamed it would be in May when I was pushing around a popcorn machine and occasionally trapping myself under its weight. It has been more than I had dreamed, actually. Because on top of the things I already loved about most summers, in this summer, we have all grown up a little bit.
Andrew got a job. He works at a place that takes much of his money anyway, Smoothie King. It doesn’t pay a lot, but he loves it, and it does pay more than watching Netflix while eating ramen in bed. Brady got his learner’s permit. That experience deserves its own post. He changed shirts twice before heading to the DMV, posed more than once for his picture, and re-did his signature 5 times before finally accepting that he has the worst autograph of any 15-year-old ever. He has yet to drive a car. Lucy, who has been 13 for a decade, will actually turn 13 in less than 2 weeks. She is almost 5’8” and her look of maturity bites us at all the wrong times and never comes in handy when she hopes to work out in a gym. Soon, all things will be right and she will be as 13 in reality as she’s been in every other way. Jenna is still my little nugget, but she can beat me at Wordscapes, and sometimes I ask her to help me when I’m stumped.
But then there’s me. I’m pretty old now. The only growth I seem to experience lately is the kind that comes from too many trips to Kilwin’s when I’m staying in a town that has one. But not this summer. This summer, I’m making some changes myself. There are some significant ones that I don’t particularly want to detail. If I change, people will know. If I don’t, I don’t have to skulk away like the loser I have become. No one will know. What people will know, and what some already do, is that I now carry a purse. Bam. Did that.
For 10 years, I’ve been carrying around my wallet, my keys, my sunglasses, whatever book I’m reading, and my planner like a woman who escaped from a Memory Care facility. For awhile there, I had a diaper bag and I could shove my belongings into that or the nooks and crannies of a stroller. But when the diaper bag went away, so did my organization. And it isn’t pretty.
After dropping my boys at a summer camp in North Carolina, I parked myself at a rented Airbnb with the 2 friends to spend the week tubing, rock sliding, visiting Kilwin’s, and trying to find a cable to link together my wallet, keys, sunglasses, and holocaust literature that I picked up for some light reading. I was thinking through this when I made my announcement.
“I think it’s time for me to buy a purse.”
“Ok,” the Informinator responded. “Whatever.” We had some time to kill on Sunday night and there was only one place still open. TJ Maxx. Once inside, there were plenty of purses, but that didn’t guarantee a successful mission. The first one I gravitated to was a mustard yellow. I held it up to Elaine and parted my lips to speak. She beat me to it.
“That’s a no,” she said firmly. “A hard no.”
I continued to comb the aisles, looking for the right fit. The next selection came to me through my fingers, not my eyes. I was sifting through the bags with one hand as I wandered and my hand rested on the softest leather I’ve ever been in the same room with. It was like the butt of a living horse. It was beautiful. I held this one up to Elaine.
“That’s not a purse, it’s a backpack,” she stated the obvious. “And it’s a big backpack.” She was right. It was the kind of leather backpack you’d put all your electronics in to travel to a business meeting in another state. It was also not a cheap backpack. I turned the price tag over and saw that it was $99. At TJ Maxx. Yikers. I put it back on its hook, but with a darkness in my heart that comes from being told no by a parent or some person that wants to give you raisins on Halloween. I kept coming back to that $99 oversized airport backpack that wasn’t a purse at all. But eventually, I walked away and bought 4 shirts for less than the price of the one backpack.
If I had a purse, I could have put the shirts in it. I walked away without a purse.
Days went by, with the wallet and the keys and the sunglasses and the reading glasses and the book about the son and his dying mother. I was picking up receipts along the way. I had become quite a spectacle. But on Tuesday afternoon, while wandering in the Mast General Store, which might be the best store ever built with bricks and mortar, my gaze landed on a couple of little llamas. One of them was buck-toothed and up to no good. The other one looked like it wanted to run away. They weren’t real llamas. They were fabric. On a purse. I loved it. And I bought it. For $32. I put my wallet in it. And my keys. And my sunglasses. And I bought some reading glasses, just to put them in the purse. Peepers brand, no less. And a self-help book. And some year-old double bubble that was way overpriced.
I didn’t know that a llama purse would change my life, but it has. Not once in the last week have I gotten into my car without the car key. Because the key is in the purse. Not once have I wondered where the phone is. (It’s in the purse.) Today, all the way out in Austin, Texas, in the middle of Lake Travis, not far from the homes of Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock, I had my purse. And by George, even in the middle of a lake, it came in handy. Need a waterproof phone pouch? It’s in the purse. Trash bag? Purse.
So it’s been a great summer so far and I’m calling it the summer of the purse.
I’ve only been let down once and it was today. Today I rifled around in that bag for some sunscreen. There was none.
That little oversight is going to hurt for about a week. But then I’ll peel off my little mistake, put some sunscreen into the llama bag and walk on.
With my purse.