I always thought that I’d have a handbag when I grew up. In secondary school and college, I would think about my adult handbag and its contents. It would have one of my small mirrors, safety pins (can one go anywhere without them), wallet, lip balm, my copy of ‘The Little Book of Calm’ for those more trying moments. a neat little diary… No matter what life threw at me, there would be something in my handbag to help. (I think J.K. Rowling must have felt like this too- remember Hermione’s bag in Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows?)
My handbag would mean arrival in the adult world- grown-up, capable and sophisticated.
So, what happened? Well, I’m definitely grown-up and capable. At this point, I don’t know that I’ll ever reach sophistication. And no, the mythical handbag never materialised (pardon the pun). Sure, I have three or four bags, mostly presents from others, which do their bit at special occasions.
Instead of embracing the handbag, I remain surgically attached to my rucksack. When my father went on his first trip to the United States, back when the world seemed a little bigger, he was dispatched with a drawing, a bright red paper serviette and instructions to find the same rucksack as Angela Chase in ‘My So-Called Life’. What he returned with was not the same rucksack. It was better, replete with multiple pockets, compartments and zips.
I’ve had that rucksack more than half my lifetime. I know exactly what each of the pockets is for. It’s been inter-railing with my first boyfriend, on a J1 summer in Boston, a Master’s year in London, and numerous holidays in between.
I started buying badges as souvenirs when inter-railing, and now amuse myself by spotting people ‘reading’ my rucksack when I’m on the Tube.
My rucksack means fun, an adventure, seeing somewhere new, independence. I’ll take that above sophistication any day.