Random Thoughts

An Extension of Myself

... handbags and purses and pocketbooks, oh, my

by Ann Robbins Talbot

I do not think I have ever used the word “handbag”. It was always a
“pocketbook”. In Florida my granddaughters used to quiz me about what I was
carrying. I would say “my pocketbook” and they would giggle. Down south women
carried a “purse”. To me, a purse is kept inside a pocketbook to contain
coins.Whatever the title, I am hardly ever without my trusty pocketbook.  

The history of my pocketbooks seems to be the story of my life. My first
handbag was soft yellow with a matching hat, crocheted by my mother as an
Easter gift. It was the size of one granny square, just large enough to hold a
hanky and money for Sunday School. I had that little beauty for years.

I went to high school before backpacks. On top of my pile of books, I carried a
flat, zippered case big enough for a comb, pens, pencils and sanitary supplies.
Inside was also a wallet to hold photos of my friends.  My uncle had given me
an old Brownie box camera which took black and white 126 film. The contact
pictures were exactly wallet size so I had a great collection to share with
people who asked “can I see your wallet”. On dates I would load up my
boyfriend’s pockets with comb, lipstick and an emergency dime for a stall in
the ladies room.
I do not remember having a pocketbook in college, but there must have been one.
I used pockets. In those days we usually wore a tan raincoat or a blazer. The
easiest way to dress was to iron the collar and the front of a shirt and throw
a blazer over the remaining wrinkled cotton. A fashion plate, I was not. For
dances I had a mother-of-pearl clutch bag that almost matched my silver dancing

During my teaching years I carried a large tote bag which included my plan book
– a combination calendar, datebook and journal. Without it I would have been
totally lost. I also toted a book or two, papers to correct or return,
“important” folders needed for my jobs as team leader and secretary of the
union, my lunch container full of raisin bran or empty depending on the time of
day, a box of Kleenex which was not provided by the school department. This
also contained a small clutch bag with the essentials of that time – license,
credit, insurance and AAA cards, immodium to forestall a teacher’s dread and a
few dollars. The tote got so heavy that I finally developed tennis elbow
without ever serving or volleying.
The LLBean pocketbook I carry at present is supposed to be easy on the body.
The essentials are still in it with a few age-related items added: aspirin in
case someone appears to be having a heart attack, tiger balm for my ailing
knee, sun block and hand sanitizer to ward off some of the ills of modern life.
Technology has added a few more items: a cell phone for emergencies and to
order pizza on my way home; an alarm clock to be used when I am supposed to
meet someone because I do not wear a watch; my camera in case I get a good shot
for the HollistonReporter.com and an extra battery just in case. I usually
carry my Annook, a few poems that need work and a couple of puzzles for waiting
rooms. I possess a two-year calendar that guides my life. If I lose it, I have
to call every single person I deal with to get where I am supposed to be at the
right time.
My pocketbooks are not seasonal any more. I used to have a straw or white bag
for summer, but there is just too much that has to be transferred. I use the
same pocketbook all year round only changing for dress-up occasions. I trust it
as an addition of myself. If there is a suspicious-looking character walking
toward me, I am confident that could deck him with one swing.

May 6, 2011

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