Last winter I attended a bridal shower where they played the “purse game.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s an icebreaker where each woman describes her purse, its contents and what those two things say about her personality.
My purse was purchased from a sale table more than a decade ago and is a dull brown that matches everything—winter or summer. It has slots for credit cards and enough pockets that I can never recall which one holds my keys. The vast interior contains a jumble of useless junk and rarely contains anything useful like gum, Kleenex, chocolate or money. And so, my self-description was that I am practical (yes, yes, anyone who has seen Mary’s dress collection is laughing out loud right now) and extremely disorganized (this fact will surprise no one).
Shortly after this, I had a conversation with my adorable friend Emily who told me of the gorgeous purse she’d recently received as a birthday present from her mother. Far less vain that I, Emily said how much that purse meant to her; that it made her feel valued and beautiful.
Ever since, I’ve thought about buying a new purse—it is something you carry everywhere, every day after all—and when one of my favorites from the Boden catalog went on sale I snatched it up(which I still haven’t switched over to because I feel like I don’t deserve it). But I left in the cart the purse I really wanted: the ruffly, ribboned flower clutch.
It comes in several colors, but for me there was only one—ruby red. I’ll admit to admiring it over and over, imagining outfits to match it and evenings on the town where I would use it to carry just a few essentials… But really, how often do I go anywhere more exotic than the grocery store? And why buy a purse when I could buy Mary a dress or yet another memory card for my camera? I told no one of my ribbon purse obsession because it was a silly whim.
The day my mom told me she had cancer she mentioned that she was sending me a little present but it was on backorder and might take some time to arrive. I’d frankly forgotten about it. But today, after flying around the house, packing 8 people in two hours, finding a sub for my Sunday School class and care for our kitty (thanks Chelle!); I ran to the mailbox and found a box from Boden.
I’m not the sort of girl who leaves a package sitting unopened on the counter, even if the kids are in the car and someone is frantically honking the horn. So I tore off the annoying yellow plastic bands, ripped the packing tape and pried open the cardboard lid.
There, in the box, wrapped in tissue and encased in a green protective dust cover was the glorious, beautiful rose red flower clutch. Efficient mommy stopped; the floodgates opened and I began to cry and cry and cry. How did my mom know this secret desire of my heart? How extraordinary that it might arrive today?
We’re almost to St. George now. Mary is mumbling in her sleep and Gabe is draped across Ben’s lap—six books clutched in his hands. We’ll catch a few hours of rest there tonight before pushing on to San Diego in the morning. I don’t know what to expect in the next few days. Both my sister and my dad cried when I said we were coming. All day my mom has been drifting between this world and the next, speaking to her relatives who have passed on and then expressing confusion when she glances around her hospital room. She asked my dad if she could go now; if she could die and he replied, “No, Michelle and her family are coming.” She immediately perked up and agreed to stay.
I don’t know how she deteriorated so quickly. Don’t cancer patients linger and stay a bit longer? What about the years of remission that we claim as a right in the age of modern medicine?
She may still have those years; but I can’t risk it this weekend. I can’t risk today.
My rose red purse hasn’t left my lap on this long long drive and is now wedged firmly between my elbow and hip. I can’t imagine a future with it—a cheery evening where I might fill it with my keys and lipstick and a few wrapped chocolates—but for now it is simply beautiful. And that is enough.