One of my favorite old games shows was Let's Make a Deal, where crazily dressed contestants tried to maneuver in Monty Hall's (now Wayne Brady's) world. The prizes were the best, and my most favorite part was when Monty would ask the ladies in the audience if anyone had a certain item in their bag.
Sometimes it was a bottle of aspirin or something many ladies had. But every once in a while, he went for the truly original, like a set of Yellow Pages, a hammer and nails, or a wedding garter. I watched with amazement as ladies would reach deep into their bags and pull out these surprises.
For a long time, my favorite movie was Mary Poppins, complete with her carpet bag that held the wonders of the world. Perhaps these favorites were just foreshadowing for my life as a bag lady, maybe not the one you have seen on city streets with all her worldly possessions tucked into her handled storage; but instead one who has amassed quite a collection of bags through the years.
Maybe it started when I was a teacher, as I shifted from the collegiate backpack to a hard-sided briefcase, which someone thought would provide me with both a professional look and a storage place for all the papers I would be grading.
The briefcase handle encumbered one hand, making it tough to carry my coffee cup (and cups are a full column for another day), so I set it aside for something roomier with handles that slipped over my arm and up on to my shoulder.
Then began the parade of school bags, some canvas, some "pleather", some fashionable, some purely functional, some pretty, some downright homely. They held my after school walking tennis shoes, coaching or game clothes, lunches, and random paperclips, which seemed to multiply at the bottom.
When a new bag caught my eye, I shamelessly abandoned my old ones, randomly tucking them into closets and trunks, sometimes not even emptying them fully of their contents. Once when finally cleaning out a bag, I found an uncashed birthday check from my grandmother, who had since passed away. Pitiful!
Somewhere in the 80's, I am guessing about the same time actress Debra Winger appeared in Urban Cowboy, I latched onto a decidedly Western look myself, I had two beautiful leather hand-tooled bags that coupled with my sky high hair made it appear I was headed back on the oil company plane to meet J.R. for lunch at the Ewing Ranch (just FYI, I would have preferred Bobby).
Then came the passionate purse pursuit of the 90's, when I was making enough money to treat myself to nice purses. A bag to match this, a bag to match that. I must have had quite a night life back in the day, as I owned about 10 evening bags, with varying amounts of sequins and crystals, none of which I can truly remember ever using.
Thankfully for a world now obsessed with sharing old photos, I was never a fanny pack girl.
Fast forward to the baby years, and carrying a diaper bag I convinced myself was both stylish and useful. I enjoyed having an excuse to have a small suitcase with me, and I packed it to the max with more than diapers and ointment, for sure.
When my daughter was old enough to need a backpack of her own, I was forced to transition out of the house sized bag into something reasonable. I began to focus on color and season, purchasing a sky blue Easter bag, a purple Advent bag, and a tawny orange bag to welcome fall.
I supported my beloved MU Tigers with a gold and black striped bag that stopped traffic more than once. A Chiefs bag still ranks as one of my top 10 best garage sale purchases ever.
I suppose at some point I realized my borderline obsession with bags when one day after hauling in about three bags with me to work, a co-worker said casually, “Everything okay at home?” and it took me a minute to realize she thought I was moving in at work all my bags in tow. I wish I could say that stopped me.
I shifted away from personal bags and shifted to household use bags. A casserole carrier, an insulated cooler bag for lunches and picnics, a three compartment bag that could literally have held a small body but nestled just perfectly in my car trunk.
In a nod to nobly protecting our environment, I bought reusable bags for my groceries, and bags made from recycled materials. After a shoulder injury, I garnered cross body bags which I told myself had a slimming effect. When Oprah told us never to carry a bag bigger than our backside, I dutifully checked the sizes in the mirror before purchasing them.
After a frantic search one day for car keys that had slipped in between the lining and the outside of the bag, my new favorite bags became ones with lots of different compartments that help me keep my cell phone, keys, and sunglasses in easy reach. I have curbed my bag collecting seriously over the last few years, and I am down to the few that I really love and use. But it may be too late.
I watched my daughter get off the bus this week, laden with bags. Like a line from a Christmas carol, she had "one small bag for gym clothes, two bags for school books, and a trumpet in it's shiny case."
Last week I saw what I know will probably be my last bag purchase to complete my collection. It is a tiny, almost keyring like size, and it holds the quarter I need, not to call someone who cares, but to use to nab a cart at Aldi. No one will even know I have it.