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My grandmother carried a kitchen sink.

Last updated on October 23, 2018

My mother would put me in dresses–velveteen numbers with white lace at the neck and skirts hems. Pink with white polka dots, white leotards or pantyhose and little shiny shoes. I was forever staining them with grass and mud and being far too hyper–I often felt like I drove my mother to drinking on more than one occasion. When I got older, I had less and less interest feminine things. I tried putting make up on everyday but the effort was often wasted, I felt–constantly having to take care of it and the routine was boring. As well, as a teenager I stopped caring. In my 20’s it was a luxury I couldn’t afford.

Included in that was my disdain for purses. I found them clunky, uncomfortable with straps continuously slipping off shoulders–I’d forget them or lose them momentarily, causing panic. They were just something extra to carry…Why would I want that? For nearly two decades I chose to use a man’s wallet instead.

Until a few years ago.

Men’s wallets didn’t hold enough, I felt. I got myself a pretty, hot-pink women’s wallet that had room for a cheque book, many cards, money as well as change. It had a handy little strap too, so I thought, “That’s not too bad. Not too purse like.”

But then later that year Grandma Pence bought me a Disney Tinkerbell purse….and then that’s when it really changed. I started carrying that thing around with me even when I was visiting family. I got a lot better obviously at not forgetting it, and they were handy. I thought to myself, “Now, I won’t fill it with everything.” My grandmother and my mother were notorious for having everything in their purse. Needed a drink of water? Collapsible drinking cup. Have a headache? Tylenol. Cut your finger? Band aid  Hole in your pants? Travel sewing kit. Runny nose? Kleenex. Upset stomach? Tums. Keys to the outdoor basement cellar? Huge key chain. I am convinced my grandmother had everything in her purse, including the kitchen sink. My memories of my grandmother and eventually, my mother having everything in their purses however brought several memories of both of them digging madly, for minutes and in some cases nearly an hour, through all of that junk trying to find just one thing. And I told myself like hell I would become like that! I didn’t have the patience anyway and most likely I would take out an entire starbucks out of frustration trying to find anything in a purse where everything was sucked into the black hole of dark-purse-bottoms.

So I just kept the little Tinkerbell purse. I’ll be safe, I thought. There’s not much room for it to get out of hand, I comforted myself with.

This is where my purse would begin to do that evil maniacal laugh thing.

But I think purses have a dark power. A dark power to draw things into them. Because first it was simply my pink wallet and a pen. And then it was my pink wallet, a pen, and a glasses cleaning rag. Then I thought, Well, maybe I would like to listen to something, and I added my ipod nano. Then it was, well I might need to write something down, so I put  a small note pad in…And soon I realized that my small Tinkerbell purse was full to the brim and sadly, I begrudgingly admitted I needed another  purse. A bigger purse. But not a douchette sized purse that could hold a small child and entire computer–as that was my worst nightmare of purses–but at least, a little bit larger of a purse. I started looking at them  when we went shopping and found most of them lacking. In a thrift store, however, I found a little green purse with a multitude of hide-y holes, zippered compartments and Velcro places and for $1.50 it was a steal. I took it home and began hand sewing the words, “Geek” in it because hey, why not?

In December when my mother passed, my father brought home her purse. He asked me if I wanted it, and I did not hesitate to say, “yes.” It was a gorgeous thing, made from real leather with braided leather straps. She had another beautiful leather bag that dad bought her, but she never liked, so he gave that to me too. That gave me four purses, more purses than I had ever owned in my entire life. I had purse-choices now, and while I carried around things in my mothers purse for a bit, recently I thought it would be good to go back to the Tinkerbell purse for a little bit. It was my first, after all.

And then a friend of mine, Erin, sent me a new purse randomly–a demin hello kitty purse which I flailed myself out of my chair in delight when I saw it and that’s when it hit me–not the floor, but the truth.

I have turned into a purse-lady.

Ten years ago this would have been a disturbing thought. Last year, however, I lost my mother. This year I lost my grandmother–the two Purse Maidens in my family, and I can still see them, rummaging about through the great forest of their hand bags saying, “just give me a minute–I know I put it in my purse–god damn it–Oh there it…No, not that…I jus…Almost…AHA!–No, No, that’s not it–” and I smile. My purse may not have an entire first-aid kit in it with collapsible cup for drinks; but it has a memory. A piece of the women in my family attached.

Maybe when I become a grandmother, I will worry about carrying a kitchen sink then.

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  1. I remember, as a child, having an inordinate love of going through my grandmother’s purse. It was, to me, like the wardrobe that led to Narnia. I realize now that it was remarkably nosey of me, but at the time, I could care less. I just wanted to go through her purse; it always smelled of wintergreen, as she often kept wintergreen candies in it, or chewing gum. Thinking about it makes me remarkably nostalgic.

    • This, too, was one of my favorite pass-times and it drove my mother and grandmother absolutely NUTS. They never wanted me to rummage about in their purse–but it was always a secret place filled with goodies and sweets and weird things, so I always wanted to be in them. I got yelled at SO MANY TIMES for going through their things :p

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