This is a story of a little handbag with a rich and storied past.
I was browsing at Gump’s — an old-time San Francisco specialty store, that can feel like a museum, whose items are so beautiful they must be admired at a distance — when I was drawn to a display of little knitted handbags adorned with beautiful brooches.
There was something about these little handbags, with their sparkly brooches and metal chains that mesmerized me. They were like delicate treasures…something you’d find tucked away in your mother’s closet along with her memories of glamorous nights out and exotic vacations. I know it seems crazy…they are handbags. But, I could tell these little gems were as far from today’s mass-produced, logo emblazoned, designer handbags sold in department stores across America. They were special in a very quiet intimate way.
Without even thinking, I delicately picked up one of these tiny nubby purses, carefully applying just enough pressure to release the magnetic closure to look inside. Truth be told, I was looking for a price tag, when I found a card tucked inside which told the story of how these little handbags came to be. And, immediately explained my instant connection to them.
A group of ladies and one gentleman dubbed the The Purlettes + One who are residents at The Redwoods Community of Seniors in Mill Valley lovingly knit each Sarah Oliver Handbag. The average age of The Purlettes + One is 88.
My mother would have loved being a member of The Purlettes + One. She loved to knit and in her early 80’s asked my husband to help sell her knitted wares on eBay (this is pre-Etsy). Together they decided she couldn’t produce enough items to sell on eBay so she continued to knit gifts for family and friends. With the help of her doctor, she even donated knitted baby caps and blankets to the local hospital for newborns in need. And, after she passed away, my sisters and I found a closet full of knitted items stored in tissue paper and big white gift boxes ready to be given out.
My handbag so reminds me of my mother and all the things that I hope for, as I grow older…community, purpose, wisdom, inspiration and timeless beauty.