Mom's enormous bag of tricks - and mine

It's official. I've become my mother.

Looking at me objectively, you'd believe that I am a self-assured young mother, successfully weaving a custom blend of home and work life. You'd think I'm a woman who knows her own mind, who has her own identity, who doesn't need to rely on historical patterns or outdated stereotypes to create her view of motherhood, preferring to forge her own way. And I thought I was.

Appearances can be deceiving, however. Dig a little deeper and you'll see that for all the trappings of individuality and confidence, underneath lies the true story. For I cannot deny that I have inherited my mother's purse.

One day I was toting a cute little Liz Claiborne wallet/purse, the kind big enough to hold only some spare change and my AmEx card - what more does a single girl need? Then came the husband, the baby, and the minivan.

The next thing I knew, I was carrying the equivalent of a bowling ball over my shoulder all day, every day.

It may be disguised as a stylish, aubergine Coach tote, but don't be fooled. Inside that small (but heavy) little bag is enough equipment to feed, entertain, diaper, and provide first aid to a family of four - dog included.

I used to tease my mom about the contents of her purse. It was a large, beige leather satchel that could easily have doubled as a doorstop or wheel chock. It was densely packed with linty tissue, half-eaten rolls of mints, bobby pins, and just about anything else one of her four children might need.

Band-Aids? She had 'em. A snack? You had your choice of saltines, gum, or assorted hard candies. Need jumper cables for the car? She could offer a variety of wire hangers, foil gum wrappers, and safety pins to fashion a gizmo to get you back on the road quicker than a call to triple-A.

Yes, I used to laugh, but now I know better. You cannot predict when you might need a pop-up map of San Francisco (never mind that I live in Boston). And don't underestimate the usefulness of the receipts from last month's Target shopping spree, a few tokens to Chuck E. Cheese, or a spare AA-size battery.

You never know when you're going to need something, so you might as well have it all with you. That's the philosophy behind the purse. When you need that jigsaw puzzle piece or old French fry, you really need it.

Nowhere is the phenomenon of "mommy's purse" better portrayed than in the movie "One Fine Day," starring George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer. As Pfeiffer and Clooney, both single parents, drop their children off at day care, they discover it's Superhero Day and the rest of the children are dressed in costume. Never fear! In the blink of an eye, Pfeiffer whips open her voluminous purse and pieces together two respectable outfits using a lint brush, a space blanket, a roll of masking tape, and a few other items she had stashed away, "just in case."

Clooney watches in disbelief, mouth open. Awestruck, he asks, "Where can I get a bag like that?" Pfeiffer doesn't answer him, but I will.

Just ask my mom.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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