The Original Bag Lady

I’ll give politics a rest today, kind of wait and see, like the bailout plan. Instead, I’ve decided to discourse on one of my all-time favorite subjects: black leather carryall bags.

As I’ve said before, it was my friend Mari who got me addicted to fine leather, well before I could ever afford it. Her father used to indulge her love of Italian leather bags, and she used to indulge her own love of all things Coach. And every year before Christmas, before MacArthur Center opened, we used to drive to the outlet mall in Williamsburg to shop. We’d go into the Coach store and just inhale the smell of good leather, and then chances were good that we’d head into the 9 West store and buy at least one pair of leather boots. Those were good times.

But my addiction to carryall bags started a long time before Mari entered my life. I was precisely 6, to be exact. We were living in England where my dad happened to be stationed at the time. I was attending Flora Gardens School, which was just a short walk from our apartment in the West 6 area of London. We didn’t live on base, and I didn’t attend base schools. In British schools at that time, everything was provided, right down to the pencils. However, this did not stop my yearning for a proper, leather, book satchel. Just a few blocks from our apartment building, Mr. Higgins’ shop yielded all sorts of treasures for a child my age—sweets and biscuits galore, but there was one thing more than any other that I wanted from Mr. Higgins store: a tan, leather satchel, more of a small briefcase. I remember that it cost quite a bit more than anything else that I had ever been given, but that did not stop me from asking for it every time that we went into the store. My mother, ever practical, refused, reminding me that I had nothing to put into said satchel.

Nevertheless, she hadn’t counted on my single-minded determination to own this prize, and so for weeks, I would devise new ways of asking, until at last, something came up, some holiday or other, and my father asked me what I wanted. I told him quite plainly that I wanted money, an exact amount. He gave it to me, over my mother’s protests, knowing exactly what I was going to do with it. I ran the few blocks to Mr. Higgins’ shop and immediately purchased what was to be the first of many, many carryall bags in my life. I diligently packed this bag each and every morning and carried it back and forth to school. What I carried is not important (Barbies, a change of clothes for said Barbies, various important papers that I might need, and anything else deemed of importance in my six-year-old mind); that I had my satchel was what mattered.

Once in college, I carried a beloved khaki backpack that I had bought in an Army/Navy surplus store. I carried that backpack throughout grad school until the seams gave out. I also carried a purse, and sometimes an additional bag, depending upon how crammed the backpack was. Then when I began to work full-time after grad school, I continued to carry two bags, my purse and my carryall. My purse was usually very large, but it was never quite large enough for all of the other things that I might need during the day.

What were these things? Well, I would need to break it down into must haves, which would be purse items, and might needs and could needs, which would be carryall items. Bear in mind, the lists could be longer, but seldom shorter, but I’m always great to have around in an emergency.

Must Haves:

  • wallet
  • checkbook
  • small calendar
  • small makeup bag with lip glosses
  • medicine case
  • card case
  • comb and scrunchie
  • eye drops and contact case
  • sunglasses
  • band-aids
  • pens
  • tissues
  • hand sanitizer and lotion
  • gum
  • mirror
  • inhaler
  • keys
  • small notebook
  • phone

Might Needs and Could Needs:

  • current book
  • gloves
  • expandable umbrella
  • miniature sewing kit
  • more pens and probably some markers
  • small scissors
  • ibuprofen
  • full makeup kit
  • hand sanitizer
  • mints
  • whatever food I might be eating
  • a soda
  • any important papers I need to take care of
  • CD’s (music)
  • disks or computer CD’s
  • empty glasses case
  • chocolate
  • post-it notes of some size
  • a notebook of some size
  • rubber bands and paper clips
  • mirror
  • hair combs
  • backup inhaler
  • backup meds
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • travel saline solution
  • at least one safety pin
  • pocket maglite flashlight
  • maybe a change of shoes

Yes, I know, the slipped discs in my back had to originate somewhere, and I think that we may have found the culprit. I honestly have tried at least twice in my life to stop with this obsession. One time, I forced myself to carry a small purse instead of the big purse, but then I just ended up putting more in the carryall bag. Another time, I split my carryall bag into two carryall bags, one that I left in the car with the might need emergency things, and one that I carried into the office with the things that I knew that I would use that day. 

Both of these efforts helped until I found the rolling Liz Claiborne bag. It was perfect. I’m sure that it was supposed to be a carryon bag, but for me, I used the excuse that it allowed me to put all of my bags inside and roll them into the office instead of carrying them on my shoulders after I hurt my back. The Liz bag was/is wonderful. I can fit my purse, my carryall (a nice, black, squishy Kenneth Cole), a small zip cooler, and a messenger bag that I was using for grad school these past two years (that came close to replicating my khaki book bag from college) all into one bag and roll it around. The only problem is hauling it into Izzie the Trooper. Usually I have help with that, though.

Now, about that obsessive/compulsive disorder I was referring to earlier . . .