It was Mom's bag

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On the subject of purses, I easily call to mind the style of purse Mom carried. She went for a good-size doctor-bag style, with a top zip the length of the purse and a wider interior at the bottom that held plenty of "stuff." Mom also always sported a decorative key ring attached to the zipper to make it easier to pull. Her favorite was a see-through light blue "Hawaii" key chain with some embedded flower petals. She actually bought that for herself on the last anniversary trip she and dad enjoyed in Honolulu.

In the large purse, Mom did carry a long wallet that had the usual compartments for ID, credit cards, cash and currency, and I was always amazed at her checkout habit with money. After she paid for something — say she gave a $20 bill and got back quite a bit of change — she never opened her wallet to insert the change. Instead, she stuffed the bills into a wallet pocket and tossed the change into the big purse, which meant that the pennies and nickels drifted by gravity to the bottom of the purse cavern.

If I happened to be with her shopping and I saw this occur, I'd say, "Mom, your money is all over the place in your purse. How will you know what you have?"

And she'd just say, "Oh, it's OK. The next customer is in a hurry and doesn't want to wait for me to organize my money."

Isn't there the phrase "Like mother, like daughter"? Yes, and there are many similarities between my mom and me. But money in the purse isn't one of them.

My money is meticulously organized in my wallet-on-a-string purse I've used for many years. All the bills are in as pristine condition as I can make them, meaning no folded corners or creases, and the bills are in denomination order beginning with dollars followed by fives, tens and twenties. The change is zipped securely in the coin compartment of the wallet. At all times, I know exactly how much money I have and where it is.

Now, Mom taught me well about not holding up other customers, so after I'm finished at the cashier, I move away to another spot and organize my money. I don't hold up the line by standing there to place my money just so.

But don't count Mom out. Despite her seemingly less-orderly storing of purse money compared to mine, she always knew how much money she had, and she could reach in her purse and grab the right bills. And somehow — don't ask me how, other than doing it by feel — she could reach to the bottom of her large purse and pull out three pennies or one dime or whatever change she needed. How she did that, I'll never know. But it was never a fishing expedition. Somehow, her hand commanded everything in the purse.

Today, Mom is in heaven so there are no more shopping trips. I look forward to her revealing her purse-use secrets someday.

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]

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