I first saw it at Macy’s. It was standing in the middle of the shelf. All by itself. It was a gorgeous, chocolate color brown leather, all thick and slouchy, and slightly shiny under the store lights. Its hardware gleamed warm bronze, its thick, soft leather handles begged for me to hold them. Somehow, it seemed different from any other purse I have ever seen. It promised perfection.
It was a doctor’s style Coach bag, and I fell in love with it. I wanted it. I needed it. I prayed for it. For a while, I even dreamt of it. I was convinced that I absolutely and completely had to have it because it was everything that I was… somehow. It was… me.
I, of course, couldn’t get it. I was a graduate student, living in New York City, and I most certainly could NOT afford a Coach handbag for over $350. I even told a friend about my obsession. And she told me, if you pray really hard, and ask God for it… for sure you will somehow get it! Maybe as a gift? You never know. God listens to our prayers.
I have never prayed for anything so insubstantial before, but I did then.
I never did get that bag. Eventually, life got too busy: graduate school, dating, meeting my husband, internships, getting married. Then moving to Detroit. Then to Philadelphia. I kind of forgot all about that bag…
And maybe… maybe a little tiny teeny bit I was (or my inner child was) upset with God for not figuring out a way to get me the doctor’s style Coach bag.
Fast-forward fifteen years… (Yes, I just aged myself, but that’s ok.)
And here I am, now, de-cluttering. Decluttering is like a virus, I think. Once you get exposed to other people doing it, you start doing it also. I meet my friend for coffee, and she’s Marie Kondo-ing her closet. Now, she says, my closet only holds things I love!
Well. I went home and viciously attacked my closet and my collection of bags. Somewhere in the process, that friend dropped by and asked if I was interested in any of her barely used Coach bags she was selling. For her de-cluttering goals.
Sure, I said!
A few moments later, I was holding IT in my hands. The Coach doctor’s bag. Its leather was soft and lazily slouchy. And while it wasn’t exactly the same, (it was not chocolate, but dark purple instead, its leather gracefully aged somewhat), its soft rolled handles still begged me to hold them, and it still whispered promises of perfection to me.
I’ll take this one! I told her right away, beaming, while clutching my very own Doctor’s bag, my de-cluttering goals all forgotten.
Finally! I had it. Truthfully, I had all but forgotten about it! But now I remembered!
I loved it. I put all my things in it. I took pictures of it and sent it to another friend. I glorified in taking it with me next morning, and going with my daughter to the library! And to the bakery. And to the store to pick up a few things. And to the piano class. In the car, and out of the car, taking bags with groceries with me, and the tote with library books.
Somewhere in the middle of it, I realized, surprisingly, that I was not that comfortable. I was not exactly enjoying the bag; I was not feeling perfect and glamorous with my amazing bag…. My hand kind of ached from holding a heavy, rather bigger-than-medium-size handbag. I guess all that slouchy leather tends to be heavy! Well, I said to myself, that’s ok, I am used to lighter bags, and I will just pop it on my shoulder.
But those soft rolled leather handles…- they were too short to comfortably fit over my shoulder! Huh! I moved the purse into the crook of my hand, and immediately felt myself something imminently more glamorous than a suburban housewife/mother. I have seen models wear bags that look like that, in this way- in magazines!
After three days, and a bruised crook of my elbow, I moved all my things back to my old purse…
How is that possible, I thought, that I was so in love with something when I was in my twenties, and now when I get it… it is just not as perfect as it seemed all those years ago? What changed, the bag or me?
Was it ever perfect? And then a new thought… Is anything ever perfect…?
My daughter bounces into the kitchen, as I am mixing the batter for raspberry chocolate cake, and happily flounces a piece of paper onto the counter, looking very proud of herself. I turn the mixer off, and look at it. On a pink piece of paper (her favorite Anthropologie stationary), covered in whimsical pictures of unicorns, is what seems to be a well-constructed letter, carefully written in her ten-year-old hand. I sit down on the kitchen stool to read it. She routinely writes stories and letters and they are always a joy to read.
“What is it?” I ask her, as I start reading it.
“It’s my reasoning letter,” she tells me, “ with all the reasons why you should buy me a Pug puppy!”
Oh. I bite my lip trying not to laugh, as I scan down to the last reason, the whole letter organized with pink bulletin dots, “Pugs are so perfect for me!!! They are so me!!! They will make my life all perfect. I need a pug, Mommy! Please!!!!!”
I take a deep breath, and turn to her waiting face, struggling to maintain a serious demeanor. We have had conversations about the amazing perfection of Pugs for a while now. She is absolutely obsessed with Pugs. She looks up Pug breed history and funny images of pug puppies, on the Web with scary regularity, (did you know, for example, that a group of any other dogs is just that… a group of dogs, but a group of Pugs- is called a “grumble”!). She begs for anything and everything that has a face of Pug plastered all over it. In fact, one of her Chanukkah presents was a Puggy (as opposed to a Piggy) Bank, and a mug with a face of a Pug, and so on… you get the picture.
I open my mouth to tell her, again, as I have done many times already, that, no, we can’t have a Pug. That we already have a dog, a poodle. And that-
But something stops me. I look at her face, her eyes wide and full of excitement, full of yearning for that… that specific something… And I think, oh, I know that feeling, that obsession, that all-encompassing desire to have something.
“We will buy you your first Pug puppy when you graduate college,” I tell her. The idea looming somewhere in the pink hazy future in my head.
As always, this brings about a dance, a mixture of “Thank you thank you thank you” and “Ooooooooooh but I so want it now, Mommy”, her big chocolate eyes full of need…
The Pug. The object of her desire.
I know how that feels, I think, smiling at her dancing around in the kitchen, the air warm with scents of chocolate and vanilla.