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Small Talk: The duffel bag of motherhood

When I gave birth to my first child, I received a clever congratulatory card with a picture of an open briefcase containing a pacifier and baby bottle tucked in it. I laughed at the silly, far-fetched image. I’m not laughing anymore.

I reached absent-mindedly into my purse last week to retrieve my keys and pulled out one small, soggy sock, Barbie’s sunglasses and a half-eaten Tootsie Roll Pop.

The discovery of the moldy sock goaded me into a badly needed purse-cleaning. As I turned it over, that which didn’t stick to the remains of the Tootsie Roll Pop included a baseball-sized wad of candy wrappers and pediatrician receipts, three broken ear swabs, one of Batman’s arms, an unraveled Raffi tape and a plastic cup with mold at the bottom.

Everything in the purse was nicely powdered with the crumbs of what were once half a dozen snack crackers. I found that my daughter had used half of my checkbook for a doodle pad, but, of course, I found no money.

Truly, some of my best chuckles over the past few years include the unexpected things my husband and I have pulled out of pockets and purses. In church, instead of my tithe envelope, I once whipped out a very small pair of panties with the Little Mermaid on the front.

Much like that once-funny greeting card, my husband unwittingly smuggled Barbie across state lines, discovering her as he opened his briefcase to make a presentation. My daughter was tickled at having given Dad such a swell surprise.

I graduated to the just-smaller-than-a-duffel-bag-size purse on the arrival of my children. I thought it an efficient effort to eliminate the need for both diaper bag and purse. We dispensed with diapers a year ago, but somehow I have been unable to de-escalate. My purse has become an annex for the county dump.

One consolation is that my children are never tempted to litter. They just toss any waste material into Mom’s big black bag and give me that “Didn’t I do good?” grin. Of course, I must tell them they did, but I sense growing disaster here.

When the kids were still babies, I thought nothing of slamming two bottles of formula, two diapers, an extra pacifier, sunscreen, booties, wet wipes, a bib and three jars of strained bananas in alongside all the other things one must carry in a purse for daily existence. I usually was prepared for any emergency, and with continued chiropractic help, I do hope to be able to stand up straight again someday.

It won’t be soon, however. These days I have become, purse or no purse, the one to whom everything migrates from little hands. Whatever our agenda or destination, my children will not leave the front porch without an armload of stuffed critters, toys, books, crayons and collectibles.

They also collect flyers, cards, handouts and free newspapers as we progress through our daily errands. But carry it home or bring it out of the car? I think not, Mumsie. You get the feeling they may have been royalty in their last several lives, followed around by a full staff of handservants.

Meanwhile, I will continue to dream my little dreams. They are filled with slim envelope purses into which I need only put a credit card and compact. Or I could have some of those handservants. 

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who still carries a purse the size of Lake Elsinore. Contact her at [email protected]