Keeping Him Close: The Story of a Purse

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This is a story about a purse.

My mother-in-law carried one specific purse, a well-made but nondescript brown leather bag, every day for more than 50 years.

Through the births of two children and the births of her children’s children. Through working every day at the family businesses and then retiring. Through bridge clubs and book clubs. Weddings, funerals, grocery store trips, family vacations, and drives around town.

She carried this purse until it broke—literally, the shoulder strap split, with a tear that went almost completely through.

In more than 50 years, she never owned another purse, never carried anything other than that brown leather bag purchased by her then-new husband right after they married.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my father-in-law pulled my husband and me aside and asked us to get the purse fixed. It meant a lot to him and to her.

That would be one of the last things he said to us. A few weeks after Thanksgiving, my father-in-law was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He died in the ICU a week later.

Fixing the purse became urgent. Luckily, through his job, my husband knew someone who works with leather. We boxed up the purse and sent it out West to be repaired.

It arrived back to us before Christmas. The leather was conditioned but otherwise untouched. The split in the strap was repaired in a very natural way. The purse showed its age with grace and honesty. It was sturdy and practical and filled with 50 years of memories.

My husband wrapped the gift and placed it under the Christmas tree. “To Mom From Dad,” he wrote on the tag.

Tears filled her eyes when she opened the gift. She held the purse in one hand, while her fingers on the other hand traced the strap repair.

Fifty years with that purse, and now with its new repair, it will last another 50 years. And, through it all, her husband will always be by her side.

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