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by Julia Sneden

I have a friend who is the Imelda Marcos of handbags. She must own more than two hundred of them, all neatly placed in plastic boxes on shelves her husband built for her in a spare room. There are bags in all colors, all fabrics, and all sizes. There are clutch bags, drawstring bags, envelope bags, shoulder bags, small valise type bags, bags with wooden handles and shiny metal chains. They close with brass, silver, and pewter clips, with strings, zippers, Velcro, and tortoise shell snaps, with buckles and loop-and-tongue contraptions and hidden spring devices sewn into the top edges.

Those of us who love this otherwise sane woman just smile and roll our eyes and give a puzzled wag of the head, much as one would sigh over a wayward child but love him anyway. But she’s a generous soul, and when one of us needs to borrow a bag for a special occasion, we know where to go.

Me, I would settle for finding just one, perfect purse, and then I’d order it in leather, and in black, in navy, in brown, and in white, and maybe in a tasteful tapestry that could do for both dressy daytime and evening use.

It wouldn’t have to be big, and it wouldn’t need lots of zippers and snaps that close pockets specifically designed for lipsticks or pens or a cell phone. I don’t care a bit how it closes, either, as long as the fastener doesn’t jam, fly open, or pop off after a couple of months of wear.

There really are only three imperatives for my dream pocket book:

  • An adjustable strap (removable would be even better, but adjustable is vital because I am not a long-geared woman)
  • It must have at least three divisions or compartments, fairly large ones
  • It must be light weight

Oh, and here’s a fourth:

  • it needs to have a voice-activated homing device that emits a loud and long squeal so that I can call to it (“Purse, purse, where are you?”) the next time I absent-mindedly hang it on the back of a chair and then throw my coat over it, rendering it invisible when I start looking for it again.

Make that a really loud and really long squeal.

Of course it would also be nice if it came with some sort of niche for a small flashlight, because I am forever squinting down into lint-filled depths, looking for little items that have a way of hiding themselves. It would also need to be sturdy, because I have a bad habit of hastily flinging my purse into the backseat or onto the closet shelf, and have even been known to swing it angrily against the wall when the key to my front door jams and sticks in the lock yet again.

I have kept looking for such a miracle bag for years and years, to no avail. The closest I’ve come to it is actually the bag I’ve had for longer than I can remember. It’s black, and leather, neither too big nor too small, has an adjustable strap, is light weight, and quietly good looking. In fact, it’s just about perfect, if only it could answer my call. Yesterday, I set it down somewhere in this house and wherever that “somewhere” is, the bag is still there. I have searched for so long that I have uncovered several odd socks and a missing wine glass and a single favorite earring, and lots and lots of dusty corners that have somehow been missed over the years. But I have not uncovered my purse.

No doubt it will turn up eventually, probably the day after I have bought a new, inferior pocket book that won’t answer me either.

Life is just like that sometimes.


Update : Hooray! My son discovered it in the carport, hooked over the handle of one of our big outdoor trash cans, where he claims I must have hung it while I wrestled sacks of groceries out of the trunk of my car. I have no recollection of doing anything so foolish. Perhaps it was the pixies. But I am very glad that today isn’t trash collection day!

And if it ever happens again, I’ll know where to look first …

2009 Julia Sneden for








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