Purses at any time of year are a reliable tip-off to a girl’s personality (or as I like to call it, Purse-onality). I have always maintained you can tell a lot about a woman by what is swinging from her arm. It’s a statement about who she is and what her current station in life demands of her. These receptacles of the stuff of life offer a snapshot of our sense of style and our daily necessities. At Christmas, a girl has a perfect excuse to go hog wild! In fact, Christmas purses can take you to a whole ’nother level on the Purse-onality Scale.
There are some women who will not even acknowledge the season by changing their handbag. Their idea of getting in the Christmas spirit is placing some red and white mints inside their purse. It isn’t particularly that they are Scrooge-ish; they just don’t see the need for holiday accessorizing. They are nothing if not practical. These are the women who do not rearrange their furniture “for fun.” They shop from a laminated grocery list and are stable to the point of boredom. They need spontaneous friends or else they would miss the season altogether.
There are other chicks who will change to a season-appropriate color of bag, but it won’t have any adornment that announces the holidays. They will drag out their red bag from storage (where it has been since Valentine’s Day) but would never think of purchasing a purse they would use only five weeks out of the year. What a waste! These women believe in a modicum of celebration without overdoing it. These are the friends who will go to a theme park with you but won’t scream on the roller coasters. They will keep their arms and legs inside the car at all times. They are the classic, the understated.
And then there are the Purse-a-holics, who have a purse for every season. They have purses appropriate for any theme, and they revel in the variety. If they have a bag for St. Patrick’s Day and one for Arbor Day, of course they would have their three or four favorite holiday bags in heavy rotation for December. This is their Christmas gift to the world! These girls have an even greater assortment of Christmas-decorated sweater sets and accessories that light up and/or jingle. They are happiest when the season provides them an excuse to show their stuff, and Christmas is nothing if not their reason to bring out their collections. These are your party instigators, and your life is not complete unless your circle of friends includes one or two of these free spirits. These are the friends who wouldn’t be able to come bail you out of jail because they would be in there with you.
I have always fallen to the middle ground in the Christmas Purse-onality Continuum—not because I wouldn’t love to accessorize for the holidays, but I simply can’t remember where I stored the stuff from eleven months ago. It may seem pathetic, but if you can find your seasonal stuff only every other year, it’s like all new stuff again!
Regardless of which purse makes it out the door with me, I truly love the shopping opportunities of Christmastime because while I am out questing for great gifts for others, I sometimes find great stuff for me. It almost feels wrong, but then I take it home and make my husband wrap it and give it to me later. That way, I always get exactly what I wanted.
Speaking of gift wrapping, it just ain’t what it used to be. Back when this country was great, God-fearin’ people used to teach their young-uns how to wrap their gifts with neat squared-off corners and hidden tape. Now they just throw their gifts into festive bags, stuff a piece of tissue on top, and act like they’ve really done something there. We had a family ban on any bags under the tree last year (as it entices the snoopers among us to an easy snoop). All our kids were forced to use their geometry knowledge of right angles to try to fashion a wrapping style that would cover the box without any ends being rolled up. I am sorry to say that the girl-child of our family had the hardest time with it. We are thinking of lifting the ban for her this year and encouraging her to keep her presents in her room until Christmas Eve to thwart the snoopers.
One of my personal-best Christmas presents didn’t come in the traditional wrapping. My daughter was born on December first: not close enough to Christmas to endanger her birthday/Christmas differentiation (is that a word?), but during the full season swing, as her birthday follows close on the heels of Thanksgiving. In fact, the year she was born, we had a big snowstorm on Thanksgiving, and there were people in our church congregation on standby with their four-wheel drives had she decided to come right after the pumpkin pie. But she had her own ideas about her birth date (and I do agree that the first of any month is easiest to remember), so when she was born, I wanted to incorporate something of Christmas into her name. We had planned on naming her Celeste Elyse (très French, mais oui?) but quickly changed it to Elyse Noelle in honor of her birth month. It flowed off the tongue nicely, and I thought it sounded elegant.
A few weeks later, we received a letter of congratulations from a longtime friend of ours (Dr. James Flanagan, president of Luther Rice Seminary), and he noted that our naming of the new baby was positively brilliant. He was sure that we had been so clever in our arranging of the name, as the linguistic roots of “Elyse” (happy) and “Noelle” (birthday) meant that we had named our little girl “Happy Birthday.” We were forced to admit to him that we weren’t quite that smart. Elyse was our early Christmas gift in 1989, wrapped in a blanket instead of a box or a bag.
More recently, I received a gift from my husband in a nonstandard gift bag, but it didn’t immediately have the effect he was hoping for. Speaking from personal experience, I suggest that if you are presenting to someone a piece of jewelry that contains authentic gemstones, you leave it in some form of original packaging so that the recipient realizes the worth of the gift. John had bought me a beautiful inlaid onyx-and-diamond pinky ring. He thought it would be a great idea to take it out of the Official Jeweler’s Gift Box and slide it into a cute fabric pouch that they give you when you purchase jewelry at Chico’s, a store better known for travel wear than for expensive jewelry (so that he could more easily disguise the gift by sticking it in the toe of my stocking sans box). When I came across the ring in the fabric pouch in my stocking, I assumed that this was a costume ring he got at Chico’s (fair assumption, right ladies?). He was truly wounded that I didn’t react more excitedly about the ring. It wasn’t until about an hour later when I said, “Which Chico’s did you find the ring at?” that he finally understood my understated response. When he explained that it was for real, he got a much bigger hug. Note to males: Keep it in the original box.
The little jewelry bags can be tricky enough, but the bags they load you up with at the mall these days are another deal entirely. They get larger every year, and they are unwieldy. We could even think of it as a physical fitness test of the season: The Toting Event.
Now, this challenge requires a good deal of training to build up much finger-joint stamina. Some serious shoppers start their fall regimen by loading up many full plastic grocery bags on a single finger and carrying them from the car to the kitchen from September through October so they will be in shape when Christmas push comes to shove. The pain one endures while the bags with uncomfortable handles mount on one’s individual fingers is excruciating. I have heard that some regimes use this Heavy Shopping Bag with Uncomfortable Handles as a method of breaking down resistance in prisoners of war.
When you start off with one or two bags, you feel confident that you can continue shopping for another several hours. As you continue to add bags, however, a strange physics phenomenon occurs: The bags tend to weigh more and more as they settle in next to each other and swing from your crooked fingers. Because your fingers were never meant to have quite this much weight resting in their curled position, after the sixth bag is added to the mix, your finger joints will start to let you know that you should go out to your vehicle immediately and relieve this pain before forging ahead with any more buying and toting.
This is one excellent argument in favor of marriage. Husbands are so handy to have around for The Toting Event. Really. In fact, they welcome the excuse to exit the shopping center, as the mall air is kryptonite to the average male. Since men go to the mall so intermittently, they forget in between trips how debilitating its air can be. Your husband may agree to accompany you to the mall (it’s only fair since you are risking your life in choosing the gifts for his mother and sisters), but once he enters, he starts feeling the power drain out of him little by little until he staggers to a bench with these words: “I’ll just sit here until you’re through.” His manliness and pride will not allow him to admit to you that he is mere seconds from death, but if you’re perceptive, you can actually see his skin turn strange colors. So you must periodically wave a TCBY cone under his nose and let him go to the car if you want him to live to tote another day.
As the holiday season draws nigh, may I encourage you, my dear Fellow Toters, to sling on the most festive bag you can get away with and let your Christmas Purse-onality shine. Remember to take an extra measure of patience and joy with you wherever you go. And be careful not to miss the most precious of gifts that sometimes arrive in unusual packaging.