Thursday, September 18, 2014

Me and My Super Purse

{For the past couple years, I've been -- slowly, very slowly -- minimalizing.  Okay, you probably wouldn't look at me and say, "She's a minimalist."  But I've been trying, through trial and error, to figure out what "enough" is.  This essay was written a while ago, a version of it published two years ago in that same defunct magazine as the essay I posted here.  *Sigh.*  Since then, though, I've been paring down more than just what's in my purse.  I'll be posting more of this quest here on the blog soon!}

“Hey, do you have any horseshoes?”

It was one of those moments when I didn’t realize at first that someone was talking to me.  Because it’s kind of a funny question coming from a stranger at the park, as I pushed my baby on a swing.
Instinctively, I looked behind me.  This had to be some kind of joke.  Sure, I knew there’s a game involving horseshoes, but it was such a random question from a complete stranger that I knew I couldn’t have heard him right.

“Excuse me?”  I asked.

He rolled his eyes and enunciated, “I.  Said.  Do.  You.   Have.  Any.  Horseshoes!” 

The amazing part of this story is that I didn’t reach into my purse say, “Sure, I always keep a couple with me, right here next to my tampons and lip gloss.  Never know when you might need to shod a horse!”  Everything else is in my purse.  Why not horseshoes?  Instead, I shrugged and shook my head apologetically before the man stomped away, obviously disgusted by my lack of preparedness. 

For most of my adult life, I’ve had what you might call an obsession with creating the Super Purse – something far more than a mere fashion statement, more like a vital appendage.  I come by such craziness honestly.  My parents worked for a NGO in Bangladesh when I was born, and I started traveling when I was ten days old.  The lesson I learned at a young age was not so much to pack light but be ready for anything.  One of my earliest distinct memories is that of the omnipresent roll of toilet paper in my mother’s purse.

The obsession truly manifested itself over twelve years ago {update: as I said, this is an old essay} as I stepped out the door with my newborn daughter and realized how much I needed to navigate a child safely through this world.  And to be honest, I take a certain pride in being ready for any problem, anywhere.  When I carry my Super Purse, I’m the closest I’ll ever be to a bonafide superhero.  There’s my wallet and phone, of course, plus a few diapers, wipes, and “hand san”.  But oh, my friends, that’s just the beginning! 

Hungry, fussing child but there’s one more sale to hit?  Behold the Ziploc bag full of cereal!  Long wait at the doctor’s office/ restaurant/ airport?  No sweat since I have these three books, a notebook, and a box of crayons!  Someone falls at the park?  That’s exactly why I carry a choice of Band-aids (Barbie or Scooby Doo?).  My husband, who, like the children in Mary Poppins, is always astonished by what I pull out of the Super Purse, has become convinced that if we were lost in a forest, we would survive as long as I had it with me.

Still, the old “ounce of prevention” adage quite literally weighs heavy on my shoulders.  There’s much more than an ounce in there! And as the stranger’s request demonstrated, there are plenty of times when I’ve fallen short of being truly ready for anything. 

But as my kids get older, I’ve realized that maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to try to prepare for everything.  Maybe I can lighten my load a little.  They are learning to take more responsibility for themselves, not just “carrying their own loads” but mine as well – handing me tissues now when I’m crying or saying “I’m sorry” to express sympathy instead of regret.  And they’re also surprising me with grace.  I watch between fingers as they slide past disasters, and my jaw nearly drops as they face tough times with much more bravery than I can muster.  I smile with surprised delight at the made-up songs coming from the backseat about “beautiful Mommy” on days when I feel anything but.  Even having had so many ups and downs, knowing well what I was getting into, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the overwhelming love for another newborn, warm and wet and crying, being placed in my arms. 

One of these days I might just leave the Super Purse at home. 

Or, at least, take the crayons out of it.

{So can you relate?  Do you carry too much on your shoulders?  Have you been paring down?  I'd love to hear from you!}


  1. Thanks Joy I enjoyed reading this. I think a lot on what we carry around and been intentionally reducing it.

    I have found my upbringing has a lot to do with creating the hoarder in me having moved around a lot as a kid with not a lot. It is good to acknowledge and start to dismantle this.

    You may enjoy reading this book I know it was really helpful for me.

    Love if you can check out our new blog as well

  2. Thanks, Paul! I follow The Minimalists' blog and twitter, but I have yet to read any of their books. (I have a list of books I'm working through, and only relatively recently discovered them. But that is on the list!) Love their essays, though, and definitely plan on reading that one!

    You blog is great! Your family is beautiful! It's great to be in touch with you, thanks for commenting!


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