Retiring The Bag

Those of you who have been around since last October might remember The Bag:

The Bag

I love The Bag, because I can schlep around an unholy amount of stuff in it, up to and including my Netbook, a couple of legal pads, two pounds of printed manuscript, and everything the kids claim they’re too tired to carry.  It has side pockets for my Phone and library ID and keys, inner pockets for my wallet, and secured zippered partitions for the stuff I don’t want falling out of it in public.

It’s been my constant, loyal companion for over three years and has never let me down, strayed from my side, or complained about being used as the family oubliette.

Unfortunately, The Bag of Holding, as Watson calls it, isn’t The Indestructible Bag, and has, over the past month, become The Disintegrating Bag.  The leather(ish) is peeling off the straps, the inner pockets have unsewn themselves, and large holes have appeared in the bottom lining, though which a lot of  . . .  stuff . . . has gleefully disappeared.

So yesterday afternoon, Watson and the kids and I went on a quest to find a New Bag.

Watson thinks I need to downsize—the woman carries something the size of a paperback book that’s just big enough to hold her phone, money clip, and keys—but the idea doesn’t sit well with me.  There’s a certain comfort in the slow separation of my shoulder joint under the weight of my ready possessions.

The kids think I need more color in my life, but I tell them that’s what they’re for.  Besides, black—aka, the One True Neutral— is the safest choice for someone who  has a total lack of interest in navigating the many rules, regulations, and risks involved in matching, deliberate non-matching, or flippin’ winter whites versus, I don’t know, autumnal aubergines?  ‘Sides, it matches the tats, yo.*

I wanted one as close to The Bag as I could get.

After searching through piles of the Good, the Bad, and the Oh My God Look It’s An Enormous Chartreuse Jellyfish, I narrowed it down to three possibilities. All were in leather(ish), as the store didn’t carry any in kevlar and I like to pretend that  ripstop nylon isn’t me.**  All were roomy and had a multitude of pocketses.

“That’s not a bag,” said Watson, pointing to the one on the end. “That’s a suitcase.”

“No, it’s . . . okay, yeah, fine.” I said, reluctantly deciding that I didn’t need something big enough for Sunny to climb into—if only because she would.

Of the other two, only one fit comfortably under my arm, its straps settling perfectly into the groove compressed by The Bag.  It’s slightly smaller, but it came with a free mini umbrella—and was 40% off.


I bought it, brought it home, and began the solemn ceremony of Changing Bags, which consists of upending the first one, giving it a couple of sharp shakes, and sorting through the results while the family makes pointed remarks.

At the end of its benevolent reign, The Bag contained (in no specific order):

Bag of holding Contents1—Keys
—Library ID
—Aquaphor hand ointment
—Hand sanitizer
—A sharpened pencil
—A pair of wrapped chopsticks
—The metal backscratcher mentioned above
—Six pads of a feminine nature (assorted sizes, because female biology is nature’s favorite practical joke)
—Six laminated wooden double-pointed needles (size 2)
—Seven pens, including a green Sharpie, a green highlighter, and one with Get Crap Done printed on the side.
—A refillable scribble book
—A three-year pocket planner
—A one-page bio of Roald Dahl from my short story group, on the other side of which are notes on the third chapter of my new WIP
—An unopened pack of peppermint gum
—A pair of sunglasses, miraculously unscratched***
—My husband’s lighter, last used to light Sunny’s birthday candles—in early April
—A cloth bag of cinnamon pot pourri
—A book of Mark Twain quotes
—A memo pad with my star sign on it
—A CPR Face Shield
—A EMT-issue barf bag in a comforting green
—Leftover nausea meds and motion sickness pills (which explains the bag, sort of)
—A flash drive the size of my pinkie fingernail
—Half an inch of blank 3×5″ cards
—My wallet (contents various)
—My checkbook
—Three Very Important Appointment Cards
—Twenty-one dollars and seventy-six cents (a forgotten Visa gift card from last Christmas, and change)
—A stack of Eagle River brochures (Hodag!)
—A big yellow paperclip
—Three marbles
—A woven nylon rope bracelet in pink camouflage that I suspect Mom dropped in when I wasn’t looking^
—Fourteen crumpled receipts, three used sticky notes, an elderly peppermint, two empty Splenda packets, several No Longer Important Appointment Cards, two crumb-filled ziplocks, two wads of paper with chewed-gum centers, an odd collection of blue metallic paper stars, and a crumpled bookstore bag in which all of this was stuffed before I decided I needed a photo.

The last five items (and half of the eighth) were set aside as I turned my attention to organizing the rest into its new home.

It all fit. Even the umbrella.

New Bag of Holding

Long live The New Bag!


Because I keep getting tassel flashbacks from that Chartreuse Jellyfish.

What’s in your pocketses?


*I’m . . . I’m so sorry.  I don’t know what happened just then.

**It clearly is, but not in that particular shade of puce.  No, really.  Hush.

***Okay, yes, I bought them at the same time as the bag, but it still counts as a miracle.  Believe me.

^She bought three, two for the kids and one for herself, but Sunny defied her nature and wanted the purple one and Mom and Jane don’t do pink.  So I guess it’s mine by default . . . or she thought I’d never find it in there.


19 thoughts on “Retiring The Bag

  1. My Watson-approved baglet is tangerine orange, which should mean that it goes with almost nothing. But as it happens, the color is so brazen that it always appears meant. Its pocketses are filled with receipts and fossilized sticks of chewing gum, license and debit cards, L’Occitane lip stuff, and a pair of nail clippers in case some sliver of white should vex me during the day. The baglet looks exactly the same as it did when I bought it three years ago, so no hope of a lime-green replacement anytime soon.

    • I wish I could pull off the brazen tangerine baglet look, but I’d have to put so much stuff in my pockets, I wouldn’t be able to walk . . .

  2. Ellen is my soulmate, but a more disorganized clutterbug there never was. She and I have an ongoing discussion about that steamer chest of a purse of hers. It contains everything and yet none of it can ever be found when needed.

    I argue that a smaller bag would force her to discriminate. It would require her to include only the essentials — essentials that can easily be accessed when she wants them. Ellen’s argument is that I should mind my own damn business.

  3. Somehow a piece of gum ended up in the small front pocket of my bag — the pocket where I keep my phone, my keys, my bus passes, my pens, my business cards, my to-do notes, etc. It wasn’t until I was in a hotel on business travel that I could bring myself to try to clean up that mess. I hereby admit I wiped out the pocket with a hotel washcloth. It came out blue.

    • Melted gum is the worst. It gets everywhere!

      (Psst: my short story group discussed your “How to Speak Czech” yesterday. One of the readers said your prose reminded him of Eudora Welty’s—his highest praise, believe me)

  4. I have a) a backpack for laptop-schlepping when my back hurts; b) a cloth book bag of the variety I used to get for free when I worked in bookstores, but that I had to pay real money for this time and that I use when I want to look hipsterish but still haul shit, er, stuff; c) a laptop bag with waterproof tweed that sings to my heart and looks suitably grown up, but isn’t as comfortable as I thought it would be (see a); d) a bag that I use for non-laptop jaunts that doesn’t fit the binder containing my MS but is cool; and e) a bag problem (see a–d).

  5. Since my kids carry their own handbags I finally have a different approach to handbags. I carry them around just for their beauty and I change them often. All of them have the same basics inside. Notepad and a pen, a packet of tissues, gum and tampons. My wallet, the keys and my phone go in the bag of the day and that’s it.

    Handbags are pieces of art – they should be treated accordingly! 😉

    • I was hoping you would chime in, ‘mausi—I remember the photos you sent of some of your prized collection. Gorgeous!

      Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’m a lost cause when it comes to artful accessories, but Sunny shares your passion. 🙂

  6. I see two trends here. The bag as a stunning fashion statement, just large enough to hold the absolute essentials of life away from home, and of a color and shape that not only matches, but also enhances the appearance of everything in one’s wardrobe (and exorbitantly expensive). The second is the bag as a kind of backpacking container complete with tent, sleeping bag, stove, cooking gear and every item past or present that could possibly be used for the preservation of life away from home. This bag is also known as the “send your chiropractor’s kids to college bag.” The first one, of course, does the same for your fashion designer. This commentary has been made by someone who uses a carpet salesman’s sample carrier for a brief case, and I’ve got the spinal ex-rays to prove it.

  7. I can see the divide between the I-carry-my-kid’s-stuff bag and the I-carry-only-my-stuff bag.

    I don’t have kids yet, so my bag needs to carry a small-to-medium book, wallet, phone, and keys. In whatever little compartments I have, I also toss in chapstick, a collapsible pen, mini pad of paper, pocket-sized container of tissues, little pill container, a bug bite treatment tube, a flat pack of gum, a single ‘pad of feminine nature’ that deals with most days of Mother Nature’s joke, and a band-aid.

    This all fits in a surprisingly small bag. Of course, when I have a medium-to-large book, the system is thrown off completely.

    • There’s also a transition to I-carry-my-significant-person’s-stuff, if the SP in question doesn’t have a bag or cargo pants.

      But I envy you your system, Caitlin! 🙂

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