Pocketbooks and rain bonnets

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purses and wallets

I tried to be an unfettered, footloose, and fancy-free person. I really did. That worked right up until my tiny purse took my money hostage. 

After years of carrying everything in my purse up to and including spare soccer socks and snacks, I recently pared down to a wallet attached to my cell phone with a long strap. 

I wore that thing everywhere. I enjoyed not having that literal weight on my shoulders. I loved not slinging a purse onto the seat of my car that was heavy enough to trigger the passenger side airbag sensor and demand I buckle it in. 

For a few months, I blissfully ran around hither and yon with my tiny wallet on a string and felt light and unfettered — that is until I needed a lip balm, hand lotion or facial tissue. Then, I had absolutely nothing. My cute lil’ old wallet did not hold a single one of those things. 

Stuck

The final straw was when I was at the gas station and tried to unzip my wallet to pay. I say “tried” because my wallet was stuck shut. Granted, refusal to open felt like a valid reaction to the current gasoline prices. Nonetheless, it absolutely was not going to budge. 

There I was at the pump, and my methods of payment were firmly zipped in. I tugged. I pulled. I could not get that thing open. I was down to nearly chewing my way into my wallet. Very attractive. 

I ended up finding an old pen knife tool in the console of my vehicle and actually cutting the zipper out of the wallet to free the cash. For the record, hanging around gas stations slashing open wallets is not a good look. 

I tried to go against the grain — the softest leather grain to be exact. As it turns out, I’m just meant to carry a purse. 

Bag ladies

I come from a long line of bag ladies — handbags, that is. My grandmother had two types of purses. Her everyday purse was tooled leather, very ornate. It was the size of a pony saddle and held a massive checkbook/wallet/possible portable bank branch combo. That thing was huge. She also carried her cigarette case, comb, and a Tangee lipstick that may have dated from the Korean war — but still looked good. 

Her “good” purse was bright red, shiny like a sports car and gold silk lined. I inherited it a few years ago and opened it to find an embroidered hanky, a circa 1974 pack of Tums, and a 1968 penny. I don’t think she carried it much. 

Her mother, my great-grandmother, carried a “pocket book.” It was silk-lined with a hard shell. Roughly the size of a compact car, it had a clasp that snapped shut with the strength of a mature snapping turtle. You could lose a hand. 

The handles were short arches of ivory or bakelite plastic. This design was best to dangle off the wrist or, more often, be clutched firmly in a lady’s lap. 

In this bastion of elegance and ladylike maturity lurked all the secrets of adulthood if you asked me as a child. There was always a cloth handkerchief, a small bottle of Jergens hand lotion (cherry almond scent of course), a few breath mints lightly flavored with a hint of Chanel No. 5, and a Cross pen. These were fancy pens in silver or gold that a person received for graduation or retirement and kept track of for decades. 

No lady carried the freebie from the bank. In fact, I’m not certain banks gave away pens in those days. They always seemed to be firmly leashed to the teller counter with silver ball rope. I don’t think they were encouraged to roam. 

Rain bonnet

Among this tidy assortment of pocket book contents was the ultimate in glamor to my little girl self: the rain bonnet. Great Gram always had one neatly folded into a tiny pink plastic “suitcase” that was then tucked into her bag. In the days when ladies hair was “washed and set” weekly. I don’t know if they make those anymore. If not, they really should. 

I had just washed and blown out my hair at home and it was looking pretty full and fluffy if I do say so myself. As a former teenager from the 1980s, big hair is very important to my sense of self. We can say what we may about “old ladies” and their handbags of yore, but as the wind gusts sent rain sideways, I would have dearly loved to dig into my purse and find one of those old-style clear rain bonnets that tied under the chin. 

Somehow, even with my stylish, small purse, holding a plastic grocery bag aloft over my head as I sprint to the car just does not have the same elegant flair. 

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Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural Appalachia with the always popular Mr. Wonderful, two small dogs, one large cat, two wandering goats, and a growing extended family.

1 COMMENT

  1. Your column is what I experienced with my Grandmother and her purse,when that sucker would click shut I would jump . It sounded like a rat trap.Thank you for the memories !! Kathi Maddron

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