Last weekend, while most folks were observing Mother's Day, I was having a holly jolly Christmas. Oh, I took my mom to brunch on Sunday and got the requisite phone call from my son, but most of the weekend was spent moving into my new purse, a Christmas present from my best friend Robbie.
You see, Robbie broke her wrist in mid-December last year, before she could finish her holiday shopping. She managed to take care of everyone on her list but her son and me, promising to deliver our presents after she was healed and back to business as usual. Of course, I told her not to worry. "Forget about it," I said. And I promptly did. But Robbie didn't. Last Thursday she presented me with a giant Macy's shopping bag.
Merry Christmas, indeed! In the sack was a beautiful black leather handbag, soft and supple and very classy, large enough to hold all my gadgets and goodies, with plenty of pockets to keep them all organized. I was thrilled, like a kid who'd gotten exactly what she asked for on Santa's lap. Robbie knows me so well. Not only did I want a bag like that, I needed it.
I believe that a woman's purse is more than a reflection of her style; it is a metaphor for her life. My dad used to say that about my bedroom. Exasperated by the constant clutter and frustrated by my teenage apathy, he never simply ordered me to clean my room. Instead, he would lecture me about the bigger picture. He explained that my room represented my world, and if my room was in disarray, it was a clear indication that my thoughts and feelings were also in turmoil. Messy room, messy mind, messy life. I think he had something there, and I think it's the same with purses.
For the past year or so, my everyday purse has been a huge canvas tote bag. I love that bag because it was a gift from a special group of folks and because it holds everything I could possibly need, along with a lot of stuff I'll never use. Problem is, I can't ever find anything when I need it, because everything's jumbled together in my big black hole of a bag. I once lost a set of keys in there for an entire week. (Fortunately, I also carry duplicate car and house keys in my bag.) And that's pretty much how my life has been over the past year. Chock full and jumbled. It's all good, but a bit more stressful than it needs to be.
Enter Robbie to the rescue. Either she heard my silent mantra - "I've GOT to get organized!" - or she simply grew tired of my fumbling and grumbling every time I'd dig through my bag for a ringing cellphone or a pen, gunfunnit it, pen! Somehow she always comes up with the perfect gift.
Once, years ago, we had a lengthy discussion about M&M candies. I wondered why they stopped making tan-colored M&Ms and why they never made peanut ones in that shade. She didn't remember tan M&Ms; I couldn't believe it, the tan ones were my favorites. We argued for a while over whose memory was faulty, and we burst out laughing when she reminded me that she was colorblind. Months later, I laughed even harder when I opened the Christmas present she gave me: a giant stuffed tan M&M. We never found out why tan M&Ms came only in plain, not peanut, but it was the perfect gift. I loved that M&M.
And I love my new purse. It has a pocket for my cellphone, a place for my PlayBook, seven compartments in which to cram my 8 pounds of stuff. Yes, you read that right. Eight pounds. I weighed it. But it's a very organized 8 pounds. My purse is still crowded but no longer cluttered.
You may shrug it off as silly, but I know there's a connection between my new purse and my renewed state of mind. The feeling of being overwhelmed by chaos went out the door with my old bag and I have great hope for the future. I may not have it all together yet, but I'm making progress.
Maybe I should clean my room.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.