We’ve just returned from a two-week trip to Australia, a beautiful, interesting, family-filled, at times stressful, most times wonderful vacation and, in the end, on the plane ride home, it made me think about purses.
I realized this after settling my bag under my seat before takeoff. I had brought two purses for this journey: my steady, Irish green canvas bag that holds everything and a new purchase, an over-the-shoulder hot pink number the size of a pack of cigarettes.
I’d seen it online and realized it was just what I needed: capable of holding credit cards and cash, but so light I wouldn’t even notice I was carrying it. I imagined myself walking the streets of Melbourne with it over my shoulder, this fuchsia vixen adding a hot (and essential, no?) splash of color to my tame outfits. I hemmed and hawed over its rather outrageous price. But then I heard “YOLO, YOLO,” the fatal acronym that is sure to be music to MasterCard’s ears: You Only Live Once. So click, and the transaction was complete.
When we arrived in Melbourne, we learned our bags were still stuck in LAX. But being forced to wait to get our stuff — and consider the possibility that it might be lost forever — made me love my purchase even more. When the bags finally arrived, I immediately opened my suitcase to hunt around for my sweetheart. There she was tucked beside the army green jacket I’d packed in case of a cool night, already making the garb look jazzy and lighthearted rather than military serious.
The next morning, we were up and at ‘em, ready to visit the botanic gardens downtown. I made us crumpets with Vegemite for breakfast, tried a few times to see if the water in the toilet turned the opposite way when I flushed it (no dice), and then decided to load up the new purse. Yep, my two credit cards and Australian currency fit in there beautifully, as I’d anticipated. Unfortunately, I also needed to cart around my sunglasses, phone, ChapStick and Gabrielle’s allergy medicine. If I were a really good stepmum, I’d also bring sunscreen, Kleenex and hand sanitizer.
Remember when you were a kid and you got your first purse? I remember mine. It was black patent leather, shaped like an upside-down mouse hole and had a gold turn lock for a closure. The amount of hours I spent and pleasure gained by turning that closure was right up there with popping bubble wrap and pressing the keys on my cousin’s flute.
Of course, the first order of business when getting a new purse is deciding what to put in it. And when you’re that age, no matter how small the purse, you’re mystified as to how you’re going to fill up all that space. I mean, sure, baby doll bottle whose milk disappears when you tilt it upside down, that’s a no brainer. Ring of plastic keys, done. Barbie lipstick your mom only lets you wear in the house? OK. But then what? I was always peering inside my mom’s purse to see what she had in there. But I didn’t have a checkbook and I didn’t need a nail file.
Oh, but how things change. Now I know I need a good-sized purse. Not a duffel, but certainly a satchel to fit all my crap. And it needs to be a smart purse too, not one with too many pockets, pouches and dividers, but with some pockets, pouches and dividers. I learned this after wrestling with a brown leather handbag this winter that was too small, yet because of its design, somehow hid whatever I needed, with my coupon keeper and lipstick case constantly in danger of getting pushed out as I rooted around for my cell phone and keys.
Despite this lesson, out of sheer vanity and under the auspices that the rules somehow didn’t apply because I was a capital-T Traveler so no longer capital-R Responsible, I was now faced with loading up something perfectly suited to a 5-year-old. I pushed Gabrielle’s medicine in there. I took my sunglasses out of their case and wedged them in diagonally. I stuffed a few Kleenexes in. I put ChapStick on and vowed to not lick my lips so it would last all day. I told Gabrielle to wash her hands. As for closing the sucker, I’ll refer to the hilarious Iliza Shlesinger (on Netflix) for showing how well that went.
Then we were off. My outfit? Looked fantastic. The impact on my back and shoulder? Nil. Gabrielle? Got a sun burn.
And for the rest of the vacation, I used my steady green canvas.