What’s In A Purse

Someone wrote to me recently saying that her favorite part of one of my books was when Beau, with great trepidation, ventured to look for something in Mel’s purse. Maybe some of my male blog readers glanced at the title and decided to give this post a pass. I hope not.

In the late summer of 1993, I needed a new purse. Back then, our finances were nowhere near what they are now, so I went shopping at Nordstrom’s bargain tables. Since it was coming up on fall, I bought a white purse, complete with a shoulder strap, for right around thirty bucks. I emptied whatever was in my old purse into the new one, and I was good to go.

A month or so later, Bill and I were in Vancouver, Washington, browsing in Nordstrom’s there. Meandering through the purse section, I saw one that was gorgeous. It was a large enough black and brown alligator affair complete with a shoulder strap. I loved it and looked at it longingly, right up until I saw the price—$300. “You love it, you should buy it,” Bill said. “Nope,” I replied, “I just bought a purse a month ago.” Not only that, I had never imagined paying that much for a purse.

Then October came along complete with a book tour that started at Bouchercon and continued from there. Purses packed for everyday use are one thing; purses packed for a book tour are another thing entirely. On Saturday night, dressed to the nines and walking through the hotel to the Bouchercon banquet, my thirty-dollar “bargain basement” purse gave up the ghost, spilling my goods all over the carpet. I gathered up the contents as best I could along with my dignity and took the remains of the purse back to our room. The next day, when it was time to check out of the hotel, the stuff from my purse as well as the purse itself went into a suitcase.

People who plan book tours often have only a limited grasp of geography, so although the tour started in Omaha, the next stop was in San Diego. At the airport there, I was met by a media escort named Ken Wilson. Media escorts are hired to take authors from point A (the airport) to point B.(the hotel) to points C,D, E, and F (various bookstores) and finally back to Point A. This time, however, when I met up with the escort, the first words out of my mouth were “Take me to Nordstrom’s!” He did.

First I checked the purses aisle. Sure enough, they had the one I had seen in Vancouver. I picked that one up and went looking for a clerk. When I found one, I hauled the remains of my dead purse out of a hotel laundry bag and said, “I need to exchange THIS purse for THAT one!” She said, “I’m not sure we can do that.” I said, “This is Nordstroms. Yes, you can.” And she did.

It turned out the purse was a Brahmin and it came with a warranty registration card which I mailed in and a note that said if the purse ever needed repair, I could send it in to be fixed. Six years later, the shoulder strap was stretched out of shape. I sent it in, and when it came back, the whole purse was as good as new. That purse was good for ten years which works out to be about thirty dollars a year—not bad. By then I was a Brahmin believer. When it was time to go looking for my next purse, however, shoulder straps seemed to have gone out of fashion. I ended up with an all black Brahmin that was okay I guess, but I never really warmed up to the two handles. That one went into storage when someone gifted me with a much larger light brown Brahmin that was great other than the fact that it didn’t fit in the footwell of the car without having to be folded over.

By now we’re up to about 2014. We’re in Tucson. After being closeted for months finishing a book, it was time to go on a book tour, so I went shopping. I went to a bra shop and bought three bras. Then I went to Dillards on Broadway. The only path to the escalator led directly through the purse department which was filled to the brim with Brahmin purses. The one that caught my eye was a purse for all seasons—black, white, and brown—that I could tell would be big enough to hold my laptop. I bought three purses that day—that one which I still use every day and two tiny versions as well both of which—still in their original containers—are currently residing in my walk-in closet.

After the purse adventure I went upstairs where, wonder of wonder I found clothing that fit me—two pairs of pants, four tops, and a designer knit jacket. By the time I tried to pay for those, however, Amex’s fraud department was on the job and my credit card stopped working. After all, after months of buying NOTHING now I was apparently buying everything in sight. I got out of the store by using my VISA, but when I got home Bill was waiting at the door saying, “What did you do?” Last spring, when I was in Tucson for TFOB, I went to Dillards, but I called him first and told him to let Amex know what I was up to.

This week among the items in my email file, I found a request from a fan in Arizona. She lives in Anthem where they have formed a nonprofit which provides assistance for folks in need in the area. Their primary fundraiser is something called “Purses with a Purpose.” It’s a gala where they auction off “gently used” purses and they were hoping to have a purse or two from what they referred to as “notable Arizona women.” My first thought was that I didn’t have any gently used purses, but then I remembered that black, two-handled, strapless one. I didn’t love it but I could never quite find it in my heart to send to Goodwill.

So I let them know that I’m in, and so is that two-handled, low-mileage Brahmin purse. I doubt the warranty is still in effect, but I hope whoever buys it at the auction likes it and gets years of use out of it. I’m here to tell you, those things are virtually indestructible. And I hope the ladies running the auction tuck a copy of this blog inside the purse when it goes up for sale. Whoever buys it should at least know the back story.

And I’m happy to say that the purse I never liked very much will definitely be a purse with a purpose.