I’ve never been a handbag gal. Well, I’ve carried a purse since I was in the 5th grade, but I always chose functional, inexpensive black bags most of my life. A bag large enough to hold a book (or two), a journal, several pens, my wallet, lipstick, and maybe a snack.
And did I mention inexpensive (aka cheap)? I never understood spending “good money” on something so…frivolous like a designer bag.
Then, a handbag named Brooklyn came into my life.
See, a client sent me a gift card for The Coach Store….a generous gift that allowed me to buy the Bag of My Dreams.
It was everything a gal could hope for: all leather, hand-stitched, and large enough to hold two journals, my Kindle, a large wallet, a make-up bag, lots of pens, a bottle of water, and a snack. With room to spare. And I bought it in Olive-Green Pebbled Leather. Not black.
And, because I just couldn’t resist and still had money to spare on the gift card, I also purchased the little Prairie Print make-up bag, too.
Brooklyn finally showed me what all the fuss was about. I understood why women of all walks of life splurged on a designer bag.
I felt different carrying this beautiful leather bag, way different than I did when I was carrying a $10 purse from Target! I walked with a happy swagger. I felt more confident. I felt a lot of love, too. And that love? Darling, it came from deep within. It was an outward sign of me walking my talk of treating myself well and using my “best dishes” for everyday.
And OK, I’ll confess: I was hooked.
Then, a small few days later, Brooklyn and I boarded a plane so that I could be with my father as he died. (I realize I haven’t mentioned here within this space that Daddy died on July 18, 2017, just shortly after midnight.)
Six weeks after my father died, we held a huge garage sale to disgorge my childhood home of forty-three years of the stuff that makes up a life.
Sure, I chose a few tokens to take back-home to Ohio from Texas, but to be honest, many of the items never made it into the house. Both my parents were smokers. My mom had been a pack-a-day (plus) smoker and everything was coated in nicotine and no amount of airing things out or cleaning them rid any of the treasures of a life from the odor of stale cigarettes.
I wanted something to remember the legacy of my father. To be reminded that despite our differences over the years, my mother had always loved me. Because, despite the fact that I was grieving the recent loss of my father, all the grief from my mother’s passing seven years earlier felt fresher.
My experience with Brooklyn had shown me that if I cared well for it, a well made bag would last me a lifetime. Rather than spend the garage sale money towards practical things like bills or groceries, I returned to The Coach Store. Brooklyn had taught me that carrying a beautiful handbag made me feel differently, so why not channel some of the money from the garage into specific items chosen to remember a lifetime of feeling cared about?
Did I mention that I was hooked? 😉
I left the Coach Store with two bags that day. Neither black, but both in Oxblood red!
First up was the Turnlock Tote in Crossgrain Leather. A bag large enough to hold it all, yet not as heavy as the Brooklyn thanks to it not being lined in leather. Still, though, a beautiful hand-stitched bag. A great reminder of my father: something sturdy, reliable, and supportive. Yet, with a sense of class and easy style.
But I also left with a second bag, and this one in memory of my mother. I had grieved her differently, more rapidly. Yet found myself grieving her all over again with the permanence of saying goodbye to the house I grew up in.
I chose a new to Coach Phone Crossbody Bag in Smooth Leather.
It was small and compact, but mighty, just like my mother. It had a special slot for my smartphone, the functionality of a wallet with card slots and a zip coin pocket, and was small enough to be slipped inside of a larger bag. Or, carried on its own as a clutch or shoulder bag for dinner out.
Then came one more bag, and yes, I confess I purchased it in the same week. This one was in some ways in honor of my parents, but also a sign of changes that inevitably come in life.
I found it – or should I say – this bag found me.
Her name is Swagger and she was on clearance at Macy’s, a style that had arrived long before I more than glanced at expensive handbags. She was another small purse, but unlike the one that reminded me of my mother, this bag wasn’t as powerful.
No, she was just pretty.
Smooth, glovetanned ivory leather with whimsical posies along the edges. And, this little gem wasn’t practical. It could hold my phone, but not my big wallet. Nor could it hold a book or my small make-up bag.
Yet, I bought it just because it was pretty. And to remind me that while life without either of the people that raised me means it will never be the same, that loss doesn’t have to translate into me turning away from the beauty in life right before my eyes.
My life is forever changed, and that means I have a choice: I can become more rigid and inflexible. Or I can choose to roll with change and see it as an opportunity for love and beauty.
When I carry this bag, it reminds me that I don’t have to be stuck in who I’ve always been. I can choose to be something more. I’m no longer the $10 practical black handbag gal, but a woman who’s willing to step out of the box in which she defined herself. A woman ready to treat herself with kindness, love, and blessings that come in leather.
I’m celebrating National Handbag Day thanks to learning from a bag named Brooklyn that a well-made handbag can not only make you feel good, it can help you heal the rifts in your own soul.
And isn’t that what we all need from time to time? A way to heal the rifts in our souls thanks to loss and life and this thing called being human?