I'm sure we all remember our grade-school biology; insects wear their skellingtons on the outside, as a hard covering called chiton, which is Greek for "a hard outside covering." As the insect grows, as they are prone to do, their skellington does not grow, which forces the insect to shed it's old covering in favor of a newer, larger one. This goes on throughout the insect's life.
When I turned 15, I got my driver's license. With that license came the necessity of carrying a few things with me, such as the aforementioned license, insurance papers, and whatever paper money I might be lucky enough to have. Before then I had toyed with the idea of carrying a wallet, and had even owned a few, usually as Xmas presents, but I never liked any that I owned until I was around 20 or so. I had by that time decided that I liked the bi-fold style, because of it's thinner cross-section, and I liked nylon over leather because nylon wasn't as prone to wear out, even though it wasn't nearly as attractive as leather. I bought a black, undecorated nylon bifold wallet when I was still in college, and I've used that same wallet ever since. I'm now 38.
My wife discovered carrying a purse sometime in her youth. As she grew older, she decided on a certain style; small without being useless, and not too garishly decorated, but with some elements of personality. Materials never mattered a great deal, but they were always sturdy, and hung comfortably over a shoulder. She, unlike me, changes purses. A lot.
The last time I changed my wallet out for a new one, some two decades ago, I emptied out my old wallet onto the table, sorted out the old business cards and expired coupons and receipts and threw them away, then sorted the remaining items into my new wallet.
When my wife changes out purses, she does so like an insect shedding it's skin--she obtains the new purse, takes out her wallet, her smokes, an ink pen, the checkbook, and her glasses case, and transfers them to the new purse. And, like an insect shedding it's skin, she discards the old purse wherever she happens to be in the house, and never thinks of it again. And so, like some sort of hyper-specialised entymologist, I take care of the old purse.
This metamorphosis occurred this weekend; the transfer of a life from the old soft cotton black purse with Jack Skellington on the front to a new, leather purse, with Humphrey Bogart's scowling mug silkscreened on it. The wallet, checkbook, pens and glasses all made the transfer, and the old purse was left on a den chair, just like a crab leaving behind an old shell. This morning, in the quiet of the house, I started cleaning, and came across this relic of her passing, and cleaned it out for storage.
See, I keep the old ones, in the vain hope that they might be used again one day. Always aware for traps that might be left behind for the unwary, I carefully sift the insides of the old shell, careful to keep anything that might be useful or necessary or missed, and then store the shell in the closet. And so far, I've amassed a sort of rule as to what I'm going to find in the old shell:
- old paystubs
- chewing gum, mangled, still in wrapper
- small bits of paper
- dog hair
- cat hair
- broken pet grooming tools
- empty cigarette packs
- very old junk mail
- various ink pens
- old grocery receipts
- old movie ticket stubs
- hard candy, mangled, still wrapped
- a peculiar funk
- loose change
- cigarette tobacco sprinkles
There are always a few things that are staples of the purse changeover, and they appear in EVERY old purse. They include:
- The movie ticket stubs
They are almost invariably from movies that came out when the old purse was brand new
- The loose change
Without fail there is a welter of loose change in the very bottom, it is usually in pennies and never includes anything bigger than a dime, and it's total value is never more than 70 cents.
- Cigarette tobacco
There is, in every old purse, mixed in with the loose change, a fine leaf litter of old cigarette tobacco which has fallen out of old packs. It has that wonderful musty smell of old things, but is never enough to roll a new smoke from the remains of the old.
- An old pen
Old pens seem to migrate to the very bottom of the old purse, without ever being thrown away. It's always dry, usually cheap, and is invariably missing it's cap, which is nowhere to be found.
And wonderfully enough, the rule always applies, or at least it has over the course of the last seven purse changes. Always a few items, mixed with a welter of the other items, and the old purse is always left somewhere inconspicuous, abandoned with a studied impunity. New purses never last much longer than a year, some go much faster, but there will always be a new purse before a full 16 months has passed. And I guess she knows I'm going to be cleaning them out eventually, so it's no longer worth her bother to hide them in the trunk of her car, or under the couch.
So at this point in the game I'm thinking about getting a big glass display case, and carefully pinning the old purses in it, and going on the scientific circuit.