The purse became a security blanket of sorts, taking the place of a teddy bear or favorite doll. Sleeping with it would provide her with a magic that seemed to ward off disasters. I took to filling her purse with Kleenex, paper, pens and pencils, a few aspirin, Chap Stick and some small coins after she turned 98. But really the purse held more than stuff. The memories from years passed of caring for kids with runny noses and skinned knees, grocery lists for suppers we ate every night as a family, a checkbook that often times had a zero balance and recipes, lots of recipes. It was a handbag, a medicine bag, a talisman for sorcery, a evening bag filled with glamour, a valise for extra undies and socks, a receptacle with bills to mail, a clutch with lotion and a comb, a silk reticule of a mother's love, a portmanteau that held the meaning of daily living.
How many times did I hear the prayer..."St. Anthony, St. Anthony, Please come 'round. Something's been lost and cannot be found". St. Anthony didn't let her down The purse was never lost but it seemed like it was until it could be located, sometimes in a few seconds, sometimes hours later, usually where she had hidden it. A life of vigilance that spilled out of the purse and somehow kept her family safe.
|St. Anthony statue from Chris Hart Studio|
Toward the end, my mother quit sleeping with her purse. She quit worrying about where it was. Apparently she didn't need all that stuff where she was going. .