My Mother’s Purse


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Once upon a time, when I was just a little thing, I remember hearing that mommy needed something from her purse. So being the kind, helpful little darling child I was, I began to rummage through her pocketbook in search of whatever it was that she needed.  When mommy found me, I was promptly reprimanded and told to never, ever to go through mommy’s purse. Ever since that time, there was a fantastical mystery that surrounded that particular fashion accessory.

Although I learned my lesson from that incident and didn’t pry into her purse again, I still had this gnawing fascination with the amount of privacy my parents needed.  I remember asking my parents about their experiences during the hippy era and was met with a response of utmost propriety.   They didn’t smoke any dope, didn’t participate in “free love” and didn’t even listen to rock and roll.  The most my mother would admit to was a slight rebellious streak “singing in a night club” when she should have been studying at the college.

I have to admit; I was a little disappointed. To this day, I fantasize about the hippy lifestyle they were hiding – all their little marijuana induced protests.  I even envision them at an anti-war rally at their campus college, dancing along to “Fortunate Son,” doobie loosely resting on their lips before passing it on.  I see my mom wink and smile, then hold up a peace sign with her fingers as she flips her long black hair from her shoulder.  The image is mentally smacked from my head by my robust father, who swears he kept to his studies like a good son.

“To this day, I fantasize about the hippy lifestyle they were hiding…”

But, just as they would tuck themselves in some out of the way place to quarrel, like their bedroom and my mother’s purse, like the inquiry of hippy-love defiance, my parent’s mistakes and imperfections were locked firmly away from inquiring young minds.  I think I understand the purpose behind their secrecy;  they chose not to glorify their rebellious days (to do so would most definitely encourage such behavior), and let’s face it, we all have our secrets.  I don’t thoroughly agree with their rationale, but I don’t place blame on it, either.

As in most areas of life, there needs to be a balance.  I’ve had a difficult time balancing which of my ill-advised life decisions I should share with my children.  While my parents did their best to discourage dissidence by withholding their indiscretions, I believe that it indirectly added an element of curiosity to the unknown and forbidden.  They did well, don’t get me wrong.  Of the many things that my peers were doing, I can say that my parents’ teachings did well enough to keep me from exploring some of the more dangerous expressions of teenage angst.  However, I never felt like I could talk to them about my problems.

There was never any way they could understand the pressure to have premarital sex because they both waited until marriage.  They could never understand the teenage party scene because they never indulged.  As my children age, I see almost an absolute necessity to share my indiscretions.  There is no longer peer pressure to have premarital sex; it’s almost a given.  I know I probably won’t prevent my kids from having sex before they find the right one, but I can tell them about how having a child at 17 has limited my opportunities.  I can also tell them that making love with a lifelong partner is stronger than a one-night stand.

“I never felt like I could talk to them about my problems.”

When they ask me about the party scene-well, I’ll send them to their father, (whose high school parties were practically legendary)  after telling them, “For God’s sake, just don’t drink and drive (or get into a car with someone who is)!”

When they ask me about the hard things, I’ll be honest.  At least, as honest as can be.  (Parents need some secrets.)  And, I can only hope that with my examples they can draw some conclusions and make wise choices for themselves.  Hopefully, they’ll be honest with me, too.  And if I need something out of my purse, I can send a kid to get it for me.

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