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Bag o’ Tricks

It’s not something I thought would ever come out of my mouth. Not something I’m proud of. But there it was: “Sweetheart, do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I have one in my purse.”

Prior to their birth, I carried my kids in my uterus. Ever since, I’ve been schlepping their equivalent weight in snacks, tools, and toys in my handbag. I think of it as baby weight that I never lost.

Gum, sunscreen, Play-Doh.

Tissues, Tums, Chapstick.

Nail clippers, plastic fork, Matchbox helicopter.

I could survive a nuclear attack–or at least a blitz of playground injuries, restaurant meltdowns, and unforeseeable grooming emergencies–using only what’s rolling around at the bottom of my handbag.

Most of the junk in a mom’s purse falls into three categories: Things we can’t live without (Tide stain stick). Things we tossed in for a specific occasion but haven’t bothered to remove because they still might come in handy someday (foldable scissors). And things we plum forgot were in there (soy sauce packets).

“The weirdest thing I ever pulled out of my purse was an edible eyeball from Halloween,” confessed a friend. “And it was January.”

My family laughed at me recently when I exhumed a Costco-sized bag of crackers from my purse while we were running errands.

“What?” I asked, defensively. “You said you were hungry.”

“It’s true, I am,” my husband chuckled. “I’ll take a cheeseburger and some fries, if you’ve got ’em in there.”

“Yeah, mom, I’m in the mood for pizza,” added my son between snorts. “Got any thick crust pepperoni, maybe under your wallet?”

Har har. Guffaw if they must. But if my purse has become more farcical than façonnable, it’s because of them.

“I’m the family’s on-the-go crap-holder, and when no one else wants to hold it, it winds up in my purse,” said another friend, whose bag is currently a nesting place for earplugs, pesos, birthday candles, stray socks, and one very smooth rock. “But all that useless stuff occasionally makes me a hero.”

Indeed. I know a mom whose purse-sized Post-Its double as an instant doodling surface and a cover for the toddler-terrifying flush sensors on automatic toilets.

It’s ingenious. So is the Secret Snack. Most kids are well aware that we moms have a granola bar, fruit leather, or packet of trail mix bouncing around in our purse for when they’re ravenous. What they don’t know is that we also have an omnipotent sugary treat that we keep hidden in a zipper compartment until desperation strikes. I carry a Please Stop Crying Lollipop. Other ladies keep a stash of Six Minutes of Silence M&Ms.

I realize my better-stocked-than-sorry philosophy makes me a control freak. Go ahead. Chide my lack of spontaneity, and gasp at the unsightly dip in my shoulder where the strap of my bulky satchel has worn a permanent rut. It’s better than being up the creek without, um, moist toilettes.

“When I became a mom,” explained another gal, “I learned very quickly that you are either prepared at all times, or you suffer the dire consequences. Before you walk out that door, you had better think ahead and stock up, or your life can become pretty miserable, pretty quick.”

If that sounds overly dramatic, it’s only because you’ve never had to wait in line at a pharmacy beside a display of ceramic figurines with two children–one coughing, one spinning in circles–just before dinnertime.

Which is why I also carry Xanax in my purse. And sometimes duct tape.

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Published inColumnsParenting
My columns are collected in three lovely books, which make a SPLENDID gift for wives, friends, book clubs, hostesses, and anyone who likes to laugh!
Keep Your Skirt On
Wife on the Edge
Broad Assumptions
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