February 24th, 2010 by Peggy Bowes
I recently walked into a local store and was enthusiastically greeted by a teenaged employee who admired the bag I was carrying. We chatted for a few minutes, our twenty-five year age difference overcome by our common interest in a woman’s most important accessory. Not surprising really, as the search for the perfect bag begins early in life.
Even a toddler realizes that a purse reflects who she is as she debates which Disney princess should be featured on her starter bag. After all, the right bag says “I’ve arrived! I’m stylish! I’m somebody!” No wonder so many women splurge on designer handbags that cost more than their mortgage payment.
If a handbag reflects who a woman is, then the things she carries inside are tools for her success — a matching wallet filled with credit cards, lipstick in the current color palette, the must-have smart phone, a stack of business cards, perfect designer sunglasses, and keys to a luxury car. Handbag contents are even the subject of celebrity interviews. My favorite fashion magazine asks the cover model, “What’s in your bag?” as if its contents will somehow reveal the secret to her fame and fortune. Gullible readers rush out to purchase the same products, hoping for similar results.
There is one event in a woman’s life that will forever alter her choice of handbags — motherhood. Suddenly the designer label is not as important as the function of the bag. It must be easy to clean, have lots of pockets and compartments, and not fall apart when chewed by teething babies. The contents also reveal a shift away from self. I’ve seen women pull band-aids, bibs, juice boxes, miniature cars, sunscreen, and even portable DVD players out of enormous purses.
Like all earthly treasures, the allure of the perfect handbag fades over time. It gets soiled, the stitches come undone, or it is simply no longer in vogue. It must be cast aside and replaced. Likewise, as a woman matures, she realizes that her words, actions and accomplishments better reflect who she is than her handbag. Its contents, or tools for her success, change as well. They are more practical – a coupon organizer, a pack of tissues, hand sanitizer, and keys to a minivan.
My own handbag and the things I carry in it have gradually changed to reveal the person I have become. I still like to carry a stylish bag, but the contents have evolved to emphasize my inner beauty rather than my outward appearance. My handbag is merely an earthly treasure, but it can carry the tools to help me store up treasures in heaven. In the pocket next to my lipstick is a small container of holy water. A zippered compartment holds a prayer book, an assortment of holy cards and a booklet to examine my conscience before Confession. My rose-scented Rosary is neatly contained in a case with a picture of St. Therese of Lisieux. A Sunday bulletin is stuffed in a side compartment. Even my keychain proclaims my faith with the Sacred Heart Auto League logo and a request to call a priest in the event of an accident.
With these tools at my disposal, I can use those idle moments in my day to direct my focus toward heaven, where I hope to some day shout with joy, “I’ve arrived!”