My black leather purse died the other day. After seven years of use, it had grown tired of my shoulder but since it’s hard for me to find purses that aren’t too bulky or girly, I’d kept it by my side for far too long. And it rewarded me by falling apart. The metal that had held the strap in place had just grown loose and despite attempted fixes with rubber bands I finally admitted our time together was through.
I dug through my closet for my mother’s old Longchamp bag — also patent leather, also not too girly. It was functional, roomy and nicer than anything I’d buy for myself. I had avoided using it because it reminded me of my mother. I reached inside, assuming I had cleaned it out long ago.
I found two pairs of her sunglasses, a half eaten packet of ricolas, a pen from her bank and the Carmex she had always used as chapstick. I hadn’t been expecting to find this. A moment frozen in time with her things just as she had left them. So few items like this remain. Untouched by time, waiting patiently for her. I started to cry, thinking about my mom going about her day, rubbing some Carmex on her lips, taking a Ricola for a sore throat. But that would never happen again. These items had sat in her purse for the last four years. Something about the glasses struck me as particularly sad. There’s something so personal about glasses. I remember my grandmother’s glasses, sitting on her dresser after her death and how attached I’d felt to them, how upset I was when my mother donated them without asking. When I’d looked at them, I saw her looking at me.
I placed the sunglasses on my face, knowing I would never wear them yet I’d be unable to give them away. They would go in the closet with her sandals she wore when I was a kid, her denim shirt she rolled up over her arms while doing ceramics, the old sundress she gave me when I was 18 because I am unable to let go of these objects, though looking at them makes me sad. I want to stay connected to my mother, to her physical form, to her presence in this life. I want to remember those moments when she went about her day in a flurry from errand to errand or class to class as she grocery shopped or taught college students.
I unwrapped a Ricola and placed it on my tongue. I’d woken up with a sore throat today. And in her own way, my mom had inadvertently taken care of that, taken care of me. Again.