The Purse

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 6.03.55 PM.pngBy Erin Vig

My husband is a very kind and generous man. He treats me well and has always made up for his long absences by buying me gifts in fabulous places like London, Frankfurt and Vienna. I have never expected or asked for the gifts and I appreciate the thought behind each and every one of them. I count my blessings that he thinks of me on his travels, even though I often tease that the shopping is just a good way to waste some time in airports.

After thirty-plus years of marriage, he knows I am easy to please when it comes to material possessions, I like clean, straightforward, uncomplicated things in my life. I have never cared what the label said or how much something costs, as long as it was comfortable, practical and easy to wear or use. I have never ‘done’ accessories and usually only wear my wedding ring and perhaps a simple bangle. Pretty black, white and beige. Little color, no flowers, no fluff, no lace, no bling… simple.

After thirty-plus years of marriage, I thought he knew what would please me.

In July 2010, my husband had just returned from another overseas trip and although he had been gone for our thirtieth anniversary, we had plans to celebrate it in the usual fashion of doing what we normally did for our anniversary…nothing! Since he started working overseas, we have given up celebrating special ‘dates’ and instead, celebrate special ‘occasions’ on whatever date we choose. Not only does this practice eliminate disappointment when he isn’t home, it also releases us from buying the obligatory gifts and allows us to give a gift just because. No reason, just because. It had always worked so well before.

Upon arriving home this time, he proceeded to unpack and brought out a beautifully wrapped package. It was larger than the usual gift and I was eager to see what treasure he had brought home this time. Usually the package was smaller and the gifts had ranged from beautiful, but simple, jewelry or desert roses (fancy rocks) that he had found in the Sahara to a gorgeous pashmina scarf he had picked up in Frankfurt, always something small enough to easily fit in his carry-on. This time, he changed his rules.

As usual, he was happy as he handed me an elegant gold embossed startling white shopping bag. I opened the top of the luxurious bag and peeled away elegant tissue paper which revealed a silk bag. Was this my gift? Wait, there was something inside. I undid more silk ribbon and peered inside at white leather and silver chains. Seriously, white leather? Chains? It was heavy! I reached inside and my hands caressed the softest leather I have ever touched. It was like touching the pure, sweet skin on one of my babies that I held so many years ago. I pulled the leather object from the silk shopping bag and there it was… “THE PURSE”!

My first thought was “Oh my gosh, it’s the most beautiful purse I have ever seen!” My second thought was “Holy crap, it’s heavy and how on earth am I going to keep this thing clean?” It was stunning; all the chrome chains, screws, fittings, and those perfect stiches on that exquisite leather. A work of art! Of course I was grateful. My husband had spent a lot of time finding it and had spent some good money (how much money?) on this gift. He explained that he had thought about getting me a black one but that this one was just so nice that he was sure I would like it. It just stood out. He was right, it did, but then again the thought hit me, “How am I going to keep this thing clean?”

I know you’re not supposed to ask but I’m the one who pays the credit card bill so I tried to ask in a way that didn’t seem rude. “So, um, am I going to need to transfer money from the savings account to pay the credit card bill? Um…can you give me an idea how much I should transfer? But I guess, I’m going to know anyway since I have to pay off the credit card so, um, was it like $600?” He looked at me and smiled, slowly shaking his head.

“$1000? $1500?” I was sweating now and as the price went higher, so did my anxiety level. And all I could wonder was how I was going to keep this thing clean?

‘$2000?” I asked.

“$2200 US, but you’re worth every penny and I know how much you like purses and it’s a Christian Dior!” My husband proudly explained.

$2200!!! For one purse??? I’ve heard of Christian Dior but I had no idea exactly what this meant. All I could think was that I could have bought twenty $100 purses and I would still worry about taking care of them. Breathe, relax, enjoy…it’s just a purse… and so the saga began.

I take all my ‘stuff’ from my beat-up old hippie purse and place it carefully in ‘The Purse’ ensuring that the lipstick goes into a Ziploc baggie first. Wait, can’t put the pen in there…just in case. I wonder if there is excessive oil from my hair on my hairbrush. Will it transfer to ‘The Purse’? Okay purse is loaded and it’s time to show it to my friends. As I’m going through my closet choosing something to wear, I think about ‘The Purse’. Obviously I can’t wear my regular, everyday clothes while I am carrying such an elegant bag and I really should do my hair a bit better. Perhaps I should think about getting some acrylic nails? They would look so nice carrying such a beautiful bag!

I gingerly take the exquisitely finished handle and try to hoist it onto my shoulder. Ouch! That handle is hard and this purse is heavy. How can it be heavy? All I have in it is a brush, a tube of lipstick in a Ziploc and my very empty wallet. Okay, no problem. Just hold the handle in your hand and bend the elbow to ensure that ‘The Purse’ doesn’t touch the ground. Ah, I get it! That’s why all those woman in the hoity-toity Biltmore Mall in Scottsdale carry their bags like that! I had always wondered and snickered and now I am one of them.

When I am finally out the door, I reevaluate my wardrobe. Maybe it’s time to go shopping (I hate shopping) and update my limited and practical wardrobe. Obviously I need a few more choices that go with my beautiful new purse. In the vehicle now, but wait, I can’t put the purse on the floor of the truck. Really? A truck? Perhaps it’s time to get a vehicle a little more ‘sporty’ and fun? Okay, purchasing a new vehicle may be something that will have to wait until later and aha, there is an empty seat in the back. ‘The Purse’ gets its own seat. Into the restaurant. Now what? Can’t put the purse on the floor and it’s too nice to hang on the back of my chair (plus the chair may tip) so it should be okay on my lap. Just be careful not to spill anything on it! No big deal as the waiter doesn’t mind getting me an extra napkin to cover my purse, does he?

First stop after leaving the restaurant, is the mall to buy a few more pieces of clothing. Not quite the practical and easy style I’m used to, but perhaps it’s time that I elevated my style to the next level. Oh yes, I totally luck out and find this incredible purse hook that I can use to hang my purse from the table in restaurants! Why is it that I bought one that looks like a huge diamond? What is happening to me? But wait, it looks so nice with ‘The Purse’!

A couple months later, I’m a little more relaxed with ‘The Purse’ but still over the top worried about it. The entire ‘style’ thing that goes along with ‘The Purse’ is a bit exhausting. People do this all the time so I can do it. I’m sure that all the time and money spent is worth it. Isn’t it? All is well. I feel awesome when I am carrying ‘The Purse’! I have a Christian Dior! Yea me! I can’t ever remember wanting a Christian Dior but I have one now!

One day a young lady grabbed me in a store and excitedly asked, “Is that your only baby?” I checked around to ensure she was talking to me and then I realized it… she was talking about ‘The Purse’! She too had one and recognized it for the beautiful object that it was. That girl knew her designers and apparently I was now part of an exclusive club that I previously knew nothing about!

Is that blue ink from my new jeans on ‘The Purse’??? Seriously, one side now has a light blue tinge! Wayne says he can’t see it and so does everyone else that I show it to, but I can see it. I know it’s there. I have betrayed ‘The Purse’ and soiled it.

Time to find the perfect cleaner for ‘The Purse’. Three stops later and $45 lighter, I am guaranteed by the salesperson that this is the perfect cleaner for ‘The Purse’. I apply, wait the recommended time and ceremoniously wipe it. Damn…I still see a blue tinge but now it’s starting to look like it should be there.

Six months later, ‘The Purse’ is looking a little dirty along the seams. Again, no one else can see it but I know it’s there. I lost the purse hanger somewhere along the way so perhaps it’s from putting it on the floor in the restaurant or maybe when it fell off its designated seat in the truck? No problem, I complete the obligatory cleaning and reassure myself that it’s cleaner and I am fulfilling my role as caregiver of ‘The Purse’.

One year later, it’s time to consider another color for ‘The Purse’. This time, when I really pushed, a friend said that she ‘may’ have seen that it was a little dirty. I knew I was right! Two reputable cleaners in Calgary, one in Grande Prairie and two in Phoenix. No one will touch ‘The Purse’. They ask if I know the value of ‘The Purse’ and say they won’t touch it in case they damage it and there is no guarantee when dying leather! Hmmm. Fortunately the last guy in Grande Prairie tells me about a class I can take to learn how to dye leather. Sign me up!

$200 for tuition and $100 for supplies later, I sit on my plastic & cardboard covered shed floor with ‘The Purse’ totally dismantled around me. I’m sure that sometime in the future, there will be other things that I will need to repair, utilizing the $20 miniature screwdriver that I had to buy to remove all the little screws in ‘The Purse’. Seriously, why on earth is it necessary to put miniature screws in a purse? Why couldn’t they just glue it like everyone else? Okay, it’s all good. Start the process. Toxic chemicals burn my nose and eyes. My hands sweat in the latex gloves. My back hurts from being bent over this thing for a week. I calculate and realize that I’ve put almost 40 hours into refinishing my work of art. I put all the pieces together and voilà! It is a thing of beauty! I have done an incredible job and am so proud of myself and ‘The Purse’! We have made it through the other side! I’m so excited to carry it tomorrow on my way to Phoenix and I’m sure that ‘The Purse’ will be noticed again for the beauty that she is!

I get off the plane in Phoenix. My hands are black and I have black flecks everywhere on my face and my clothing. ‘The Purse’ is delegated to a special place in my closet and gets moved from one spot to another over the next six months. Every time I move her, I speak to her and tell her that she will be used again and that I appreciate her beauty (even though she now has more wrinkles than I do). I promise her that I will find a solution so we can be together again.

Another ‘hippy purse’ is purchased from Winners. It’s so light and I can hang it on my shoulder! No more tennis elbow for this girl! I think I will wear those comfy sport shorts, tank top and flip flops. They’re so casual and comfy and look awesome with my new ‘hippy purse’! Bonus! Prep time cut in half as well. So happy that I don’t have to maintain the acrylic nails anymore!

Six months later I return to Phoenix and guilt envelops me when I see ‘The Purse’ forlornly hanging in my closet, awaiting my return. Okay, nothing to lose…she goes in the washer. Maybe that will get rid of the black ‘flecking’ issue and it will give the purse a vintage look? Three days to dry, a trip to the cleaners, purchase and application of a few special ‘miracle’ oils and she still looks like she has been through a flood.

Standing in the middle of a parking lot in the intense Arizona sun, I ponder what else can be done to resurrect “The Purse”. My hand tentatively opens and I release the handle, hearing the metallic clang of chains hitting the metal bottom of the Goodwill donation bin.

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