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.

33 thoughts on “What’s In A Purse

  1. I am impressed! I had no idea that so much could be said about purses and their purchase. I do admit, though, that I once bought a purse purely because I liked it. It too was expensive, and I never used it much, but to this day I still like looking at it.

    Your mention of Nordstoms reminded me of a colleague I greatly admired, now dead. She too shopped at Nordstrom’s. Before I met her, I had never heard of the company. So, thanks for the memories.

    I have just finished Missing and Endangered. As usual, you kept me reading. I did wonder though why Johanna did not turn to Ali for help in tracking down the predator. It was nice, however, to read something positive about the FBI for a change.

    Thank you for hours of reading pleasure

  2. When my wife cannot find her keys, I always say “Look in all of your purses” and that usually solves the problem.

  3. My late hubby always teased me about the size of my purse, and occasionally told friends I even had the refrigerator in there. On a vacation with my mom along, she noted our conversation with interest. “Do you have a kleenex?” I pull one from said purse. Later, “Do you have an aspirin?” After a bit if shopping, “Will you put this in your purse?” After several more requests, my mom was laughing and threatening to buy him a purse of his own.

  4. My bride of 55 years had the same love of Coach Purses passed on from her mother Beatty a classy Lady. New Leather of the quality that is in higher end purses has a smell that reminds you of that person even though the may be deceased 3 or 15 years. thank you for Causing me to do that act 5 minutes ago. Thank you for the stimulating thoughts in these ‘trying times’ not only in you blog but causing me to have to go to Google dictionary While reading HOTH [aquired thru the interlibrary loan Here in Tacoma. Aloha From Chuck in Tacoma/

    • HOTH. That started as family shorthand with UPG. Now it’s everywhere. Made me smile.

      • neat when I am able to make you smile. Also got M&E from Wheelock library. Aloha from Chuck in T

  5. Some years ago I fell in love with the quilted Chanel purses with chain shoulder strap. I bought four—tan, light tan, blue and blue patent. Each were copies, of course, and around $35. They have lasted for years. For traveling I always had a large bag that held a lot more. As I traveled mostly space available as an airline pilot’s wife I had to be prepared to be “bumped”. Be prepared is my motot.

  6. I gave up the purse about 9 years ago when I found a phone case with a cross body strap with a beaded dragonfly on the front at the Sawdustfest in Laguna Beach. This beauty was made by a local artist has two pockets, one for my phone and one for my driver’s license, bank card, credit card, a few folded bills and my small chapstick.
    For years I suffered from back and neck pains and was told to stop carry a “suitcase” so this solved the problem till a couple of weeks later and we attended the 4th of July parade.
    Like usual my family started handing me stuff, like candy, and stickers thrown from the floats, advertising leaflets handed out, extra bottles of water, even a sunscreen tube …. Where to put all this junk? Luckily someone came down the parade route handing out reusable shopping bags and I took one and filled it up. On the way back to the car I handed the bag off to my kid who commented how heavy the bag was, yes I replied that is the weight I carry each time we go somewhere.
    Fast forward 7 years to a family trip to Nevada to visit our daughter, while packing for the trip I got one of the purses I kept and filled it with unopened extra chapsticks, sunscreen, bug repellent, band aids, a package of wet wipes, granola bars, trail mix, extra phone and media device chargers and all the cords. This purse stayed in the car the entire trip all the way to Las Vegas area, through Nevada’s Red Rock Park, up the road to Mt Charleston, to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The magic bag it became, anytime someone needed something it was found in the purse and I didn’t get a neck ache.
    I still only use the dragonfly phone bag, I’ve had to stitch the strap back on and a couple of beads. The great thing about the bag is I can wear it under my jacket or shirt in a crowd for extra security.
    I’m no longer a slave to the purse nor am I the family pack mule.
    ps: no I don’t wear make up or brush my wash and go curly hair. I put on sunscreen before I go out and we keep tubes of the stuff in every car.

  7. OMG! Only my ~ “Most Favorite Author of All Time” ~ could write so much about a PURSE! Sure glad that you stopped short …….. after the bras! lol Doyle

  8. I’m a fan of many years and love your books. Each series is special. I happen to love purse’s and have more than I should and hate to give one up. Each has there own story Ive had to move and had to give up a few. I also gave to charity and hope they found a good home and someone to care for them.
    I live in Tucson and hope I get the pleasure is meeting you. Blessings and love

  9. This made me laugh because I did something similar when I was on a trip in Italy. We were in a little mountain historic town and I wandered into a small store that had lots and lots of Italian leather purses of all sizes and styles. I do not buy souvenirs as a rule but I walked out with a good sized purse with a shoulder strap and a hefty (for me) price tag. However after using it several times it just was not right for me. Guess what I also donated a nice Italian leather purse to UGM here in Spokane. Thanks for the memories.

  10. What a funs story. I don’t know many authors could write a story about purses that actually had people chuckling and laughing. But you sure nailed it!

  11. Purses are a hard to thing to find “just so.” I hate purses to begin with, so I have reverted to my old stand-by Franklin Covey back pack. It’s colorful and holds all those things I think I need to take with me when I leave the house. It has an added advantage of not constantly being in my way, as it resides on my back. In addition, I don’t have to pay rapt attention to it when shopping, as gaining entry to it is a bit of a process – therefore, no pick pockets. ? I’m a Coach purse person, if I could ever find the one I want. ?

  12. Purses are definitely challenging to buy- I have chronic neck and shoulder pain,
    so I have to be very careful not to feel weighed down by something heavy- At the same time I need something to put quite a few items into, so mini-purses are useless to me- Men have a reputation of being ignorant about purses, but my husband, bless his heart, found the perfect, black, synthetic purse for me that is light, but holds enough to keep me going- I will not be seen as a fashion statement with that purse, but I will be comfortable and equipped for my outings-
    As for AMEX crying, “FRAUD!” I can relate to that- After being in quarantine for a year and half, never using my ATM card, when my husband was suddenly in the hospital last October (He is O.K now) and I spent a fortune on car service going to visit him in Manhattan, when I tried to take out$200- The machine kept rejecting my card- Finally I I tried for $60- and it coughed up that amount- When I got home I had several emails from my bank asking if I had tried to take out $200- I am glad the bank is careful, but they can be over-protective sometimes-There should be a secret code to use in such situations when it is not possible to call the bank-I felt like screaming at the ATM, “Its ME you idiot! It’s ME!”

  13. I relate! Walked into Dillards, table full of purses ON SALE! I circled the table, my eye on a purple purse that had grace. I picked it up twice and watched as other shoppers zeroed in on it, too, but replaced it. Went home, and couldn’t get that purse out of my head….The next morning I decided to go back and if that purse was there, I’d buy it! Best purse I ever had. Loved it. Went with everything. People stopped me to tell me what a great purse it was. A TSA person complimented me. I used it till it became so worn I had to let it go…but not far. Into my closet. Years later my granddaughter loved to play dress up and guess what she carried her lady things in! Made my heart warm.

  14. I love to read your stores. I was on you news letter mailing list. I saw news on your book and realized I was not getting a newsletter. Time to seek out your website. Now I get the blog. Glad you found the right purse. I still buy in the $30 range.

    • I just checked my database, and your name isn’t there. I’m wondering if maybe your email address changed. But now that you’ve subscribed to the blog, you’re covered. Whenever the newsletter goes out, that along with the current blog posting content the same content.

  15. I loved that purse story, J.A. My wife is in search of a new purse. She has seen a few but is always turned off by the price. It sounds like I may have to go the gift certificate route to help her find something she likes.

  16. I am addicted to purses. Brahmin purses are lovely. I saw beautiful small magenta one on-line. I have around fourth purse. I have stop buying, but I still look at the ads.
    I have read all of your books. When will the next book be available?

  17. Purses can be a pain! Finding just the right one — nearly impossible! I like an adjustable sturdy strap (my purses must be strong!), a light lining (so I can see what’s in there), some structure so it will stand up no matter how unevenly it’s loaded and doesn’t just flop into a shapeless blob, large enough to easily hold a file folder or two, enough of right size pockets, room for a book?, and of course it must be beautiful and not show dirt. Easy, huh!?

  18. Loved your purse stories. Sorry we don’t have Nordstroms or Dillards in our area but buy from Kohls or Pennys (until they closed up). My purse story is an idea, to help the homeless women it was suggested to take an old purse, fill it with lotions, wipes, hand gel, or any cosmetic they would appreciate along with a snack of crackers and a bottle of water. Use your imagination.

  19. Hi Judith, after going through knee replacement surgery I gave up purses. Walking with a walker and taking a purse didn’t work. So I put a small metal card holder in a pocket with my DL and a credit card. I found out that was all I needed. I feel so free for not dragging all the purse stuff with me.
    Love your Blog.

  20. Love this blog. I’m with you — purses need shoulder straps, not handles.

  21. I found this “purse blog” very familiar. I’ve always bought a purse more for the purpose it serves rather than appearance. though that’s somewhat important also. If I find a purse that meets my strict organizational rquirements I buy 2 in the same color suitable for fall and winter, and 2 in the same color for spring and summer. 4 purses in total. I use them for many years and when the first in the fall color starts looking “used” I start using the second I purchased for that season, etc. They are fairly expensive…under $200 each, expensive for me, but it saves me time trying to find purses that “work”. I’ve even found a few new ones on ebay and I’ve learned to check for authenticity numbers before the ebay purchases. So I can relate to your purse specifications, and the ones I’ve bought and don’t work well for me I donate in practically new condition.

  22. Great Blog! Are you going to be in the Seattle area anytime. I would like to meet you again. I met you a long time ago at an auction for the Norway Center in Ballard.
    Couples bought a dinner with you and your husband, who was going to be the cook. I wish I could have been able to bid on that dinner. I love your books and I just read two from the library and am on the list for the last J.P Beaumont book. I just I hope I die before he does. I would hate to think that I missed one. Haha. Thank you for a very special series that has kept me happy reading. After my husband died I couldn’t read a book. I went to Florida for the holidays and bought a J.P book while there. I was so excited because it got me reading again. Bless you for your talent and for sharing it with us.

  23. Loved it! Go through purses like a knife through soft butter…next one, I’ll try a Brahmin.

  24. I missed reading this from my email until a few days ago and appreciated the purse conversation from JAJ and others. I adopted cross body purses quite a few years ago as they allow for 2 free hands (as it cannot slide off the shoulder – my prior choice). My current one (I use the same one year round/black) has been in use for quite a few years – inexpensive and starting to show its age. It has 3 small outer zipped flat pockets and one open one so I can store certain things in each pocket.
    I read this in the morning before I went grocery shopping. . . . At the store I was at the self checkout (as usual, where possible) moving items from cart to scanner, and suddenly my purse strap must have caught somehow on the cart and ripped right off the body of the purse! I thought it might be able to be reattached but no luck. At least I had my cart to the car, and another empty bag in the car, so I did not have to worry about how to carry it inside when I got home At least, eureka, I had a backup purse in my dresser drawer – that I bought on sale somewhere in the nearby mall, when I used to go there, so more than 2 or 3 years ago It also had those several zippers on the outside, which is what attracted me, so was able to transfer things from the old purse to the new one – but the new one is smaller so had to reduce what is carried. Now must look for a new backup.

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