Do you watch Antiques Roadshow, or search for fashion memory-makers like old purses? When I was watching Downton Abbey last night something made me think of my grandma Josie and her pocketbook.
Grandma never called it a purse. It was always her pocketbook. A name that harkened back to olden times when ladies always carried a fresh hankie in them, along with some mints or gum, a comb and possibly a pen or pencil. I don’t think I ever saw her with anything but a black purse. One of those tapestry looking fabric bags would have been too risqué in Grandma’s opinion.
There was no Coach wallet or anything so upscale inside either. It was probably more like something she got at the five and dime, or the drugstore, for a nominal sum. It was either a smaller version of the purse with the ball closure, or had a zipper. I think Grandma, ever the practical and frugal lady, even recycled Grandpa’s old coin purses and got another decade or so use out of them!
So what was my fascination with her purse and why do I remember it so well? I think it was my first inkling of what ladies carried their important going-to-town accoutrements in. I was right by her side when she would pay for her groceries. She’d give that clasp a quick turn and delve deep inside with her hand to extract her checkbook or cash. You never spoke to Grandma as she was pay for anything. Gads no!
At the end of the transaction, Grandma would return her wallet or coin purse to the dark confines of the pocketbook, close it with one-handed pressure on either side of the top of the purse and I’d hear that thump-snap of the clasp. It seemed so important somehow. So grown up, and she was so sure of herself. Self-centered little cuss that I was, I probably was already enjoying one of those silly wax bottles with some red sugar syrup inside. Yes, I always persuaded Grandma to buy me something. Groceries in paper bags were taken out to the car and Grandpa would drive us back to their house.
Oh, and by the way, on one of those trips to the store I discovered my Grandma was a thief! Oh yes she was. I saw her take a grape off the stem of a bunch and pop it in her mouth! And then, she didn’t even buy any grapes. I never told a soul…
© Carol Yates Wilkerson – 2012