Inside The Brown Pocketbook

September 6, 2012



Have you ever noticed that when you visit the home of a Southerner, they will tell you the looooong history of everything in their house?  “These fish forks belonged to my Great- Great Aunt Velma’s cousin, the one who hand carved her entire dining room set from four walnut trees that fell in her yard during a hurricane.” 

For some reason, we treasure every small thing from the past. Items that some would normally cast off become instant family treasures that remind us of places and people we love.

My Aunt recently gave me a purse, or rather a “pocketbook”, that belonged to my Grandmother.  It’s brown leather with an alligator inlay and looks like something Jackie Kennedy would have carried.  It  smells like a Grandmother with hints of Juicy Fruit combined with some sort of Avon product.

But even better than the soft fragrance is a, “Hello My Name Is” sticky tag, stuck to the cream colored lining. And even more interesting, on that tag is not her first name, “Estelle”, or even “Mrs. McKee.” Instead, she had written in blue ink, “Mrs. Herman McKee” the proper, formal name of my Grandfather.


Actually, I can only think of a few times today we still refer to ladies with their formal husband’s name. When addressing a formal letter or card, and on the “Contributors” page in the back of the Junior League Cookbook, although I think that’s fading fast. 

When I first received the pocketbook, I searched the pockets and corners, not really knowing what I was hoping to find. Maybe a small note or grocery list, or perhaps a metal hairpin had jiggled down deep into the lining. But nothing besides the name tag remained.

Long ago, I remember the pocketbook contained more than gum, which by the way, I never saw Grandmother chew. Her stylish pocketbook, probably purchased when she was adventurous and traveled to Mexico, held practical things like a pen embossed with the name of the feed store (where she bought her flower seeds), a coin purse, metal nail file, safety pins, rain bonnet, receipt from Penn’s Hamburgers, address book, and of course, a clean and pressed handkerchief with pink embroidered flowers. 

I adore carrying Grandmother’s classic pocketbook.  Before I slip my iPhone in, I always poke my face down in the lining, next to her handwritten formal name tag, and inhale deeply.

Hoping the scent of Juicy Fruit hasn’t faded.


  • oh yes! the rain bonnet! and a little mirror, too!

  • I love the handbag. Oh so extra special being that it belong to grandma. I so wish I had one of my grandmother’s purses. Lucky you.

  • What a lovely lady-like pocketbook. I love using mine from the ’70s…buying vintage is fun, but so much more special when you have memories (and scents!) from your grandmother.

  • We both loved your story of the purse and will be loyal followers of your musings as time progresses.
    Keep up the good work.

  • You really get the south and record it well my friend. When I first married, far too young,and people called me by his name I was always terribly confused. Love that pocketbook. I would proudly carry it.

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