She’s ruddy and beautiful and tired and torn and we’ve been absolutely everywhere together.
Up and down, up and down, up and down the steps of two state capitols (and a few times, the national one). I clutched her to my side as I teetered into my new job in a big new city two winters ago, trying desperately not to look as overwhelmed as I felt. She knew, though. She could feel my trembling hands.
In high school, someone once said of my backpack, “You hang onto that thing like a shield.” And so it’s been with my first business girl bag, my sidekick and my shield for some of the most turbulent years of my life.
This bag has been by my side as much as my husband has the past few years.
She and I first got together at the start of a job I loved, and I proudly carried her all through that too-short time, stashing my victories and joys in her multitude of pockets. I clutched her through the long difficult months after my husband lost his job, making mine all the more important. She was my companion, my security as I plowed through the days at a new job that paid the bills in style but left me miserable. One particularly grueling day, I almost passed out with her on my arm, and the doctor told me I was carrying too heavy a load, I had to stop stuffing her to the seams. And she rode my shoulder, progressively lighter, the whole time I was pregnant with Banana.
For months I’ve known that her rippity seams were too far gone to fix. But I resisted, brushing away the loose strings and using the zippers that still worked, telling myself it didn’t matter that I was headed back into the world of meetings and conference tables armed with a bag that Goodwill would reject.
She’s a tangible tie to a life that I loved so much. And giving up this bag feels like an admission that that life is gone, when I still haven’t quite figured out the new one.
I quietly looked for weeks. I hemmed and hawed over color, style, whether to charge it to my work account or pull out my own debit card. Not that any of those things really mattered, at least not nearly as much as I made them out to matter. It was a ruse, an old procrastinator’s trick to put off letting go.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I was in Target and something bright caught my eye. The bag was biggish and boxy, red like her but a brighter, cherry lollipop shade. This one I tested on my shoulder. It felt different. But it felt good.
New bag sat around my house for a week, winking at me with her cherry skin while I continued to haul Old Faithful. Then one day I grabbed them both, walking to work with a bag on each shoulder. And while a webinar droned in the background that day, I moved the files and the cards and the makeup and the notes-to-self out of my loyal old leather shell and into her perky replacement.
That evening, I carried my empty old bag inside the new one as I headed for the train. Music was drifting over the still-bright evening air as the cherry bag and I added ourselves to the swirling mix of people on the sidewalk.
It’s only a few steps to the station. Right before I ducked inside, a man sitting on the corner with a can full of change smiled at me and said, “I sure do hope you figure out where you’re going soon.”
Maybe he was talking about the train. Maybe he wasn’t talking to me at all. But I smiled back at him. I sure do hope I figure it out soon, too. It feels like I’m getting a little closer.