01 May Grandma’s Purse
“Grandma’s Purse” is an Excerpt from Being Here…Too, Short Stories of Modern Day Enlightenment, Ariel and Shya Kane
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I grew up in Gresham, Oregon. At the time, it was a sleepy farming community where the children had summer jobs picking berries and went for ice cream floats at Rexall Drugstore with the money they earned. Our house was a two-story white structure on the edge of the woods with a separate garage and a little playhouse that was perfect for my sisters, Cathy and Mary, and me.
On the top floor of our house, under the eaves off Cathy’s bedroom, was an attic space where my folks stored Christmas decorations, luggage, and things that were out of season. One of the treasures in the attic was my Grandmother’s purse.
Ila May Powell, my mother’s mother, had died a year before I was born. She was born in 1906 and lived much of her life near Portland, Oregon, until her death in 1957. After she and my Grandpa, Larry Halif Cermack,eloped, she went on to have eight kids. My mom was the eldest.
One day when I was young, my sisters and I were playing in the attic when we came across Grandma’s purse. It was black with a single strap and a simple gold clasp at the top. We brought it out to Cathy’s bedroom, climbed up on her bed, sat cross-legged facing each other and carefully removed the contents, one piece at a time. Inside was a comb, a crochet hook, a clean white hanky with tatted lace that Grandma had made herself, a coin purse with a few coins, a pencil, and a small, handwritten, shopping list: Butter, eggs, coffee, milk.
We marveled at the writing. It was wonderful to see something Grandma had held in her hands that she’d actually written. All these years later I remember that list. And I also remember something else. Grandma had things left to do on the day that she died. I’ve always been touched by that fact. She had a full life. She did many things. And yet apparently she still had things left to be done. That she didn’t do them didn’t make her life incomplete and she didn’t fail in any way. Somehow the fact that she still had a grocery list when she died allows me to be relaxed about my desire to get things finished or over with.
It’s so easy during our lives to press to get everything done. Most people feel pressured to complete everything on their list by the end of the day. Many feel that they have failed if there are tasks yet to be accomplished, goals yet to be achieved. But I’ve come to realize that I am likely to always have a list. It’s a component of being alive. So at the end of each day, I can put it away and let myself be. If I’m taking a day off or going on vacation, I can let go of that list. It will still be there when I return. “Finishing” something, completing my list of “to dos,” crossing that finish line is not a final destination. It’s simply a part of daily living – a part of living my life.
This is an excerpt from Being Here…Too, now available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold.