The Secret of Bags
My mom wore big purses everywhere she went. In them, she stuffed tissues, wipes, a notepad, a myriad of pens, lipstick and lipgloss, a large tube of body lotion: for cracked hands, and ashy knees, and crusty faces, paperwork, old envelopes, a coal stick shaped like lipstick but was for covering grey hair, a pad or two, and anything else thrown in throughout the day.
It took two hands to carry, ten minutes to search, and all my strength to hold on my lap while she drove. It held secrets, and pain, and god’s will. I always thought when it came time for me to carry a bag, that I’d go as small as possible.
Something cross body, big enough for a sidekick, a small sleeve for cards and cash, and a chapstick.
I didn’t realize that we become our parents, in one way or another. As the years grew on, my indoctrination into the purse carrying world solidified my need for totes, heavy one strappers, and small suitcase sized accessories. I slung them over my shoulder with the gusto of a woman with places to go, things to do, and dangers to avert. One day, it will be my savior. The only way I can glean from the world outside the religious box I called home.
The bigger the bag, the more pockets it had.
On trips to the library, one that was close enough for me to walk to, I’d get the books I was allowed to read. Books about christian girls ‘just saying no’ and boys who held your hand lightly, lightly enough for you to pull away, and didn’t pressure you into sex. I borrowed Francine Rivers, Robin Jones Gunn, and “Left Behind”.
My mom took these into her hands, inspecting each with the keen eye of a pastor. Searching each spine and cover. They were all the same. With Christy at the fire pit, Christy at summer camp, Christy in front of school. Or girls in long dresses, knee-length shorts, and shirts that covered blossoming breasts. The titles were all the same too. Never-ending blanket of whiteness.
But deep in my bag, beneath the smooth insert that kept it up right, I hid the real stuff. Books on vampires in love, historicals about women marrying “the Villainous Viscount” or worlds where magic lived…