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Life in Retirement: Left holding the bag

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I got busted for having a sheathed knife in my purse at airport customs once, but I can explain. It happened several years ago, when I had been at a Christmas party with a dear friend soon after both of us were divorced. He insisted I needed a ‘night out’ which, given how pleasant the dinner and entertainment had been, I think he was right. Plus, I won a door prize of a small but mighty hunting knife.

I sort of chuckled at the time, thinking that a nice potpourri would have been more fitting for me, and then nonchalantly threw it into my purse. That’s where it stayed until six weeks later, when I flew out to Victoria to celebrate New Year’s with friends. There was quite a commotion when I innocently plunked my purse onto the security surveyor. An alarm went off and a few security people gathered. One of them motioned me to come closer to the scene, as she snapped latex gloves onto her hands for the search. I stood there slightly embarrassed, as she pulled out a brush, wallet, hand sanitizer (even thought this was long before COVID), a Kleenex tissue (of course), an address book – you know, the usual things you’d expect to find in a purse. Even though I had bought this particular small purse so I couldn’t cram as much stuff into it, clearly I had discovered a lot could still fit.

Then she finally reached the bottom, where a small but intimidating covered knife sat. Oh dear. My fumbling shock at my own carelessness was obviously evidence enough for her that I was innocent of any impending crime. She told me they have to confiscate the knife, but I could keep the sheath. Then she told me they forward all the items they confiscate to charity, so I told her to keep the sheath and, in my relief, even gave a little donation to the cause. Purses can be so complicated, can’t they?

One time my mom and I had been at a market and I bought a perogie maker. It was really just a small plastic circle meant to punch out the appropriate shape from dough, which we had both sworn we were going to make. We talked about making a big batch of perogies together for years and never did. Maybe lots of Irish mothers and daughters talk of such things, I’m not sure. What I do know is that, at yet another Christmas party, the whole big ballroom was playing the ‘what’s in your purse’ game between the banquet dinner and the dance. The host would call into the mike the items that you were to search for and the first person to make it to the stage with the item won a prize. Come to think of it, this game left half the party out. Nonetheless, he had made his way down the list of usual suspects: eye glasses, receipts from stores that no longer exist, business cards from people you don’t even recall meeting, a loose Tums. I could have won with all of them, if I was quicker. But by the time he got to ‘perogie maker’, there was plenty of time to respond. I was the only person in the room of 500 with such a thing and I won a gift certificate to an Irish pub. There’s some sort of serendipity to all of it, I think.

The contents of my purse have changed a lot over the years. I used to carry perfume and make-up when I first started out, then switched to little packets of crackers and granola bars when my daughter was growing up. Now I have a small variety of hard candies, gum, cough drops, dried fruit snacks at hand. My friends all know about my stash and when we’re out at a concert or a walk in the park, they ask with innocence if I have any mints in my purse. Then I give them the full array to pick from, and it reminds me of when I was a kid and my grandparents had goodies stashed in their purses.

Butterscotch lifesavers were Nana’s favourite, or Scotts mints, or sometimes small packets of Licorice Allsorts. Have I become an old lady like she was? The contents of my purse have definitely evolved over time. The one thing that has stayed the same is that there isn’t enough money inside.

Sandy Bexon is stepping into retirement after over 35 years as a communications professional, reporter and writer. She lives in Red Deer.