My Grandma's Purse

Growing up, my mother and grandmother were devout purse carriers. And not the dinky ones. I mean the huge ones that could double as a floating raft in the case of an emergency water landing. I was a little person, though, and I hated having to carry a bag just as big as I was to keep up with my perpetually empty wallet and chapstick.

I often didn’t even need a purse because I was typically with my grandma. If anything went wrong, I had her over-the-shoulder emergency kit to save the day. Time and time again, I was shocked by what my grandma managed to pull out of that purse. If my nose was running, she had a packet of tissues and a hanky for when those ran out. If I had a hangnail, she had a mini manicure set. Band-Aids, Neosporin, and alcohol swabs were not a problem. She had hard candies to suck on during the dull parts of church and mints for after dinner. If I couldn’t find my own chapstick, she had about five backups. If it was raining, she had a rain bonnet to cover freshly done hair. She even had a flashlight for when finding exactly what I needed in her bag got tough.

There were purses within purses and then pouches within those. Her bag was like a Russian nesting doll, but each concentric doll served a distinct purpose in saving the day. Her bag was a metaphor for my grandmother’s preparedness for anything life could throw at her or those she loved. In the deep recesses of her bag, I discovered what I hoped to one day detect in my own womanhood. She always had something on hand, up her sleeve, or in her bag, ready to duel whatever monster one of us had to face. Sometimes it was the little things like fabricating a cough drop out of thin air when someone’s throat was at their rawest, and sometimes it was much more profound like talking us through some of life’s biggest disappointments with the perfect glimmer of hope.

With her purse, my grandma taught me what it means to be a strong woman. It means always being prepared to take on those curve balls that the world throws at you. It means being flexible, versatile, and durable. It means sometimes carrying the stress and woes of those you love on your shoulders. It means having little solutions for the big situations and knowing the difference between the two. In the bottom of her bag, amongst the loose change, hair ties, and gum wrappers, I found comfort, I found solace, and I found safety.

My grandmother is a phenomenal woman whose purse was a mere glimmer of how capable she was at taking what life threw her way and tossing it back with spin. I doubt I will ever be as prepared as she is, but I have started carrying a small bag everywhere I go with the essentials. I call it my Emergency Raft (patent pending) and in it I keep a couple physical items that I feel can get me out of most bad situations.

Grandma’s Mini Emergency Raft:

1.     Nail kit - especially an emery board
2.    Oil-blotting wipes
3.    Travel pack of Advil or some other pain killer
4.    Hand sanitizer or paper soap or both
5.     Tiger Balm (topical pain reliever)
6.    Spare contacts (if you wear them)
7.     Hand lotion
8.    Tide To-Go stick
9.    Handkerchief and/or pack of tissues
10.  Sunblock
11.   Mirror
12.  Tampon or other sanitation products

13.  Chapstick
14.  Mint, gum, and cough drop

by Mia King

Mia King