I carry a big purse. I have tried to scale it down, but alas, it appears as though I am not ready to make that leap to a smaller bag. I also carry a big wallet and I love it. It holds everything I need, my bills lay flat and together with my coins are easy for me to access.
One day, I may reach the point that my mother has realized in the last year or so. The point at which she now carries her wallet in her pocket and carries only a pen and handkerchief in her purse. This seemed so strange to me, so of course I asked her about it. She explained to me that she carries a purse because accessorizing is the key to any outfit (duh). She also explained to me that as a senior, she is acutely aware that she has joined the ranks of yet another class of vulnerable people, at least when she is out and about in the world.
My mother has always been fierce and brave and just a little bit crazy. Being a woman of her generation came with certain vulnerabilities in society, and none of those (now) openly challenged threats ever stopped her from living her life.
She is still fierce and brave although advancing age has now introduced her to a new level of awareness around her personal safety of which she had thus far been unfettered. “I carry a purse because I love my purses. You know that. And you just can’t find good quality, well-made leather bags anymore. It’s all this over-priced garbage-quality shit. No way, Jose. A good bag will never let you down” she said with the conviction of a woman used to getting her own way (I know the tone well). She continued “but at the same time, if one of these assholes tries to knock me down and take my purse, well, joke’s on him, right? A used hankie and a pen. Ha! They won’t get a dime from me, the fuckers. My keys and my wallet are all safely kept not in my purse. Smart, huh?”
“Yes, Mum, that’s a good idea. But why are you bothering with the purse again? Isn’t it just a pain in the neck to carry about?”
“Ah well, you know I’m never out for that long, have to get back to take care of the dog and besides the outfit just looks better if I have a purse, you know?”
Well, I don’t actually know because the majority of my outfits look homeless but I do know that while I love my current purse there are still times when I wish that I didn’t feel the need to carry it (and its endless contents) everywhere. While out shopping I spend time and energy keeping my purse safe, all the while also forgetting to zip it up while it hangs from my shoulder. This brings us to this morning.
I was in a slightly shady store in Newmarket (ugh, stop it – not XXX shady, just bargain-type shady). The kind of store where the other patrons will stand too closely behind you while you look at items. The kind of store where you instinctively hold onto your purse with your hand while it is still on your shoulder. Knowing these two things to be true, chose to patronize the store anyway (the frugal voices in my head are loud) and I ignored my inner sensible voice reminding me that I ought to zip up my purse. I wondered the store for a bit, choose a few books then lined up to check out, putting the books on the counter. I then started to look through my purse for my wallet and felt an instant and overwhelming panic setting it. As mentioned before, my wallet is big. It is not one that can hide or get lost in my purse, and I couldn’t find it. The words “my wallet has been taken” were almost finished leaving my lips when I glanced up from my bag and saw that I had already set my wallet on the counter, atop the books. I could have cried. I felt faint with relief and embarrassment as I was thisclose to losing all sense of dignity and having a full-on melt down right there.
The woman behind me in line chuckled. “You’re okay” she said “I saw you starting to get panicky and I wondered if it was your wallet you were digging for, I was just about to tell you that it was on the counter.” She said with a kind and open smile.
“Ah, thank you. I can’t believe I did that. Such a space cadet! It’s just that last time I was here, a woman was yelling that her wallet had been taken from her bag and ugh, I don’t know what got into me. Breathe.” I said, flapping my hands around my face, without taking a breath at all.
“Nah, you’re okay. It’s a different world we’re living in now. Doesn’t matter for me, I’m old, but it really bothers me for my grandchildren.” She shook her head.
“Yes. Yes, you’re right. That’s exactly what my mum says as well.” I smiled at her, willing for my body to calm down and my stomach to stop churning. “Well, lesson learned today for sure, I’ll be remembering to zip it up from now on!”
“Well, now that it’s out of the way, you can carry on and have a good day.”
And so I did.
I should acknowledge that this story could have turned out very differently and if it had, I would have been devastated, full of guilt and shame. As it stands, I feel grateful, lucky and warned. Yes, things can be replaced, it’s inconvenient and cumbersome to cancel cards and to replace identification and I am ever so grateful that is not what I needed to spend the rest of my day doing, and at the same time, the experience has me more acutely aware that most things, once done, cannot be undone. My decision to not take the three seconds required to close my purse could have caused me, my family and others in my universe a great deal of stress and upset, had my wallet been lost or stolen.
So, on this Monday of Mondays, I will henceforth heed the warning that God, the universe, or circumstance has so generously and graciously bestowed upon me and I will pay greater attention to the always-sensible-and-knowing voice that spends so much time reverberating around my brain trying to keep me safe from harm and far less time listening to the voice of that laissez-faire ne’er-do-well who skulks about up there looking for moments make a mess of a perfectly good day.
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