The Purse

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Over Christmas, there were a lot of comings and goings, and my three daughters were amongst the comers and goers. There was a perpetual pile of purses dropped in corners all over the house. One seemed to linger on in the front room beside the couch, unclaimed. I thought little of it, as my daughters seem to have far more than their share of purses, and I figured this one didn’t contain anything too important for the time being.

The other day, I had a peek inside, and I realized then that the purse belonged to Grandma. My daughters had gone over to the condo before her funeral and packed away her belongings, bringing all of her stuff over here so it could be sorted, claimed, or earmarked for donation. Somehow, the purse had escaped the pile of donations on the front porch, and there it sat, a quiet presence in an out-of-the-way corner, biding its time. It was as though she had casually plopped it on the floor and proceeded on into the family room, where, if I peeked around the corner, I would find her sitting on the couch, sipping at her cup of regular orange pekoe. Preferably Red Rose.

For those of us here in the world on January 14th, 2014, there is nothing of great importance in the purse. But for me, finding the purse was like being granted a little peek through a window that had been permanently boarded up. Several tissues that had blotted at brightly lined red lips…a tube of lipstick with its lid missing…notes with questions to ask her oncologist…a pair of enormous sunglasses that she had remarked helped her to look at the world through “rose-coloured glasses.” And, there were several scattered receipts from Shoppers’ Drug Mart.

How she loved Seniors’ Day at Shoppers’. She could spend hours in there, up and down the aisles, enjoying the snack buffet and free coffee. One time, the store had been offering pizza slices to the seniors and they’d run out by the time she got there. After her complaint, the store sent their delivery car out to her house with a pizza.

Once her illness had progressed to the point where she had to go on oxygen, she had to give up her lotions and cosmetics, much to her disappointment. The lidless lipstick stands as witness to her rebellious nature and her unrelenting commitment to glamour. Her perfume lingers in the lining of the purse.

I think of my mother, a remark she made a few years after her own mother passed away: “She never really went too far away.”

It’s like that with Gloria. We speak of her in present tense, still. If we happened upon her at the front door, no one would be surprised.

There will be times when, unexpectedly, we will come across other little items that belonged to her or remind us of her, and they will be the anchors that tie us to her memory, bringing her back for a few moments.

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