Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What's in a Bag? by Margaret Hart

This week I got together with a group of women I hadn't seen in a while for breakfast. As I was driving to the coffee shop, I reached into my purse, as I often do while driving, and dug around for my phone so I could double check the address in my contacts at the next red light. It's true that women can put on lipstick and makeup, brush their hair, and do all manner of things while driving, but I draw the line at texting, emailing, or trying to look up addresses–it's just too dangerous, not to mention illegal in most states.

So there I was stuck in traffic with the perfect opportunity. I looked down and there, staring me in the face, was a zip lock snack bag containing a two-day-old ham and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread.  "I'm really losing it," I thought.  I didn't even remember putting it in there.  But there it was.  Pink ham. Yellow cheese. Smear of mayo. Yes, I did remember! It grabbed it from the refrigerator as I was racing out the door on Wednesday to serve my volunteer shift at my son's school.  I was so busy checking out books to the first graders that day, I never got to eat.  And so, kind of like the emails that aren't read on time, the sandwich got pushed to the bottom of the abyss of my handbag and, two days later, on Friday, it surfaced.  None too worse for the wear, I might add.  It wasn't moldy and it didn't even smell.

When I got to the coffee shop, my good friend Margot arrived first.  I couldn't wait to tell her.  Her daughter and my son have known each other since diapers, and we've shared a lot of parenting experiences. This morning, her story was just as good.  "Don't feel bad," she said.  "Before I left, I took out a pair of socks, two pairs of underwear, and some crayons."

We continued to compare notes.  My purse: one stretchy monster leftover from Halloween, three washable markers, two tattoos, three stickers, one orange lollipop.  Her purse: crayons, candy, hair clips, and miscellaneous girlie stuff.

Now that our children are potty trained and in elementary school, we've long since traded in our fashionable diaper bags, but we still carry snacks, juice boxes, water bottles, toys, and gadgets in our designer handbags to keep our kids happy–along with an extra pair of underwear or socks for those little emergencies. 

My handbag is also typically filled with notes I make when I'm running errands, despite my Smartphone having so many apps for these kinds of lists that I should never need to write anything down on another sticky note as long as I live. Not to mention that my new phone talks to me, reminding me to pick up milk or stop at the post office to buy stamps. God, I love technology!

In addition to the items I often carry for my family, a quick inventory of my handbag reveals the regular contents, and it's really boring: a zip lock bag filled with store coupons for sales that have mostly expired (guess I didn't have time to get to the sale), my checkbook, sunglasses in a large case that takes up too much space (but for what I paid for those sunglasses, I'll deal, so they don't get scratched), two bottles of hand sanitizer, two tubes of lip balm (after all, it's chapped lips season), a makeup bag filled with makeup I rarely wear during the week, reading glasses, crumbs, miscellaneous papers and receipts, a mint from the salon where I get my mani/peddi, a credit card holder containing store gift cards, my oversized wallet, my key chain with my favorite photo of me and my little man, a digital camera, pocket tissues, gum, and three pens. All hidden inside a really expensive designer handbag that I got for Christmas a couple years ago. You'd think the contents would be more exciting.

On any given week, my handbag serves as my mini-office. It's also a slice of my life at the moment, and a place where I know something can go and hopefully it won't get lost. But chances are, it will get shuffled down to the bottom of the abyss. And next time I'm stuck in traffic, I'll find it. And I'll either eat it or I'll throw it out.

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9:29 PM  

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