Caitlin Reyes Brune: Mom’s Purse


Sandwiched in the middle of a big Irish family, Caitlin Reyes Brune received early coaching on her writing from her Dad, who spent three and a half decades teaching high school English and coaching varsity football. Well schooled in revision, she nonetheless decided to major in English (and Psychology) at Georgetown University. Profound curiosity, naïve fearlessness, the restlessness of a gypsy, and deep love of the world have inspired travel and work assignments in a dozen countries. Currently, Caitlin writes from Santa Cruz, California, where the surrounding organic farms, magnificent Monterey Bay, and slightly off-beat community offer no end of inspiration. 

Caitlin recently joined The Writer’s Journey and is a new member of the Wednesday writing practice class. This was her response to the prompt, "Tell me about someone else’s wallet, bag or purse."

Mom’s Purse

Always trailing out the back door at least five minutes later than my father found acceptable, the eight of us waiting not-so-calmly in the station wagon, my mom never left the house without her pocketbook. Not to give the impression that she had just one beloved, stylish tote. No, not at all. There was a bag for the weekday erranding and shuttling of children, containing ever-present wads of Kleenex, a hairbrush (round, with plastic-tipped bristles, of course), and assorted market lists tacked to envelopes bearing coupons. Lipsticks crowded the bottom reaches, clattering against each other like discarded bottle caps. There would be a sandwich baggie or two of Cheez-its or pretzels, to stave off bouts of whining. Her wallet, too, overstuffed with discount cards and gas credit cards, slips of paper dotted with mysterious measurements, and her well-organized checkbook. In this pre-cell phone age, that rounded out the weekday pocketbook’s inventory, though there was always room for the spontaneously added extra item, whether rubber band or clump of safety pins, yesterday’s newspaper or last Sunday’s church bulletin, or even the belated thank you card, as yet unwritten.

The Sunday pocketbook was different, a variation on some common themes, perhaps. There were Kleenex, of course, and, without doubt, the brush and Sunday tube of lipstick (a well preserved, newer version of that clattering ‘round the weekday bag). The checkbook, always with church envelope and pen tucked inside, awaiting the application of my mother’s careful hand and meticulous memory for what was due to meet her tithing. She’d have a smaller version of market essentials stowed inside her bulky wallet, waiting to see if Joe and the brood could endure a stop on the way back from Sunday mass. She’d have this or that recipe or article to pass along to one of her friends, or a check for Jimmy, a week’s wages for painting the hallways of the parish school with her.

Few of these contents made it to the evening bag that accompanied Mom on one of her rare evenings out with my father. Those nights, when the oven held precious pizza and babysitters awaited our wrath, Mom kept her toted treasures to a minimum. Chosen contents included lipstick and brush – consistent testimony to her vanity and natural beauty, which needed only to be gently coaxed to the surface – and the ubiquitous wad of Kleenex. There might be a stray starlight mint or cough drop, to calm her nervous postnasal drip while the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra played. Traces of mother-of-seven removed, Mom carried those evening bags ever so lightly on her shoulder, giving us each a peck atop the head as she and my dad glided out the back door together, making their way arm and arm into the leisurely evening. The night seemed to open up to receive them, Kleenex and all.

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  1. Beverly Boyd says

    Mom’s Purse
    What fun! reminds me so much of my own mother’s purse. Of course she carried anything (in those days before diaper bags) she might possibly need and some she had probably just forgotten were in there!Thanks for the memories!

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