Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bag Lady

I knew there was a problem when my Mom opened the extra large Saks shopping bag that had been carefully folded among a 10-inch pile of "collected bags," and her eyes opened with a mix of wonder and triumph. It was a really big shopping bag. But in her mind, it was a one of a kind treasure. For some reason it was easier for her to part with the Russian antique urn worth over $5000 than this large heavy duty bag with corporate logo.

She folded it back up and brought out a smaller, even sturdier grey bag from Saks that didn't hold the aura the much larger, more unique temple to shopping bags had held.

I filled it with lovely linen table mats and one old white tablecloth, and a few packs of paper doilies she begrudgingly agreed to part with during our purge of her drawers. We had spent several hours paring back centuries of belongings to make her move to a smaller apartment easier.

Somethings it appears, are harder to part with than others. Back to the bags.

My mother has mountains of bags. She has gorgeous pocketbooks with labels from Hermes, Channel, Judith Lieber, Ferragamo. The creme de la creme of leather pocket books. Then there is her collection of canvas bags amassed from golf outing goodie bags, airplanes, cruises, and who knows where. I'm guessing if we took count, we'd find over 100 such bags.

But the real "collection" is the Mount Everest of paper and plastic bags accumulated over a lifetime of saving. For some reason, these reminders of shopping trips past are not as easily discarded as the already mentioned antique. Or the slightly worn white channel now destined for a thrift shop.

I know she's not collecting bags to save the planet. Or to win an award as these enterprising Junior High school students did in Boise See here

In my search for the cases of this irregular compulsion, I discovered that the town of Newark actually held it's 6th annual exhibition of shopping bags in 2003. Open the bag exhibit here...

Bag Lady today has a different definition than it did when I was younger and it meant a lady who literally lived on the streets out of a bag. I'm hoping with therapy we can get Mom through the purge and convince her that tattered, useless bags over 10-years old are not worth moving to a new home. But that may be wishful thinking....

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