Rae & Louie

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I think a bag says who a woman is.

I have been on a life long quest for that perfect bag. And I have a laundry basket full of purses to prove that. Ones that I can't quite get rid of. Ones that are close but not quite. Strangely, the best of my purses were gifts. (Apparently others know me better than I know myself.)

This bag is a vintage Louis Vuitton Speedy Monogram handbag. I don't think you can call this a purse. This bag comes in sizes, no less. I have no idea what size this is. It has been dubbed 'Big Louie'. (Thanks Phil.)

For me who is a teeny, tiny, itty bitty purse kind of gal, it is huge. Basically right now I am a Kate Spade girl. The small ones.

There is a story behind this bag. Maybe 6 or 7 years ago my friends Nita and John came to Madison in an icy, freezing cold stretch of February weather. John, an engineer and in his late 80s came to take a class to keep his engineering license up to date. We met them and got them to their hotel and settled in. I must say I have never seen such a pile of Louis Vuitton luggage in my life. And I mean the big pieces. You know, the kind that my large 5 year old grandson could crawl into.

John would go to class and I would go and get Nita for an afternoon of lunching and shopping. We would meet back again after my John got off work and all go to dinner. Madison has lots of fun places to eat and all exceeded their expectations.

We were having 'the best burgers they had ever had' at the Blue Moon and Nita was bemoaning the fact that she wanted to get me something but didn't know what. I am all, 'no, no I don't need anything'. Then she says, 'I know, I will give you my purse'. I am 'NO, nonononononono no. Please no'. Those of you who know Nita know that Nita never takes no for an answer. At this point she asks the waitress if she has a brown grocery bag so she can dump the contents of her bag into it.

Panicked, I said I know what we should do. As of now this bag is mine but you should keep using it until someday when you do not need it anymore. Over the years I got to tease her about my bag and that I hoped she was taking good care of it.

Nita is now 94, and I went with 2 good friends to visit her in a retirement community in Iowa City. We had a lovely time and at the end of our visit she went to her closet and brought out Louie. We all got a little tearful.

Frankly, I am conflicted about this bag. I think a Louie bag says, 'I have money and I want you to know it'. And philosophically I have a bit of a problem owning a bag that is worth more than my monthly mortgage payment.

That aside, it did not occur to me that every time I use this bag that I would think about my dear friend who gave me her last treasure. And it will always be Nita's bag and never Rae's bag. So that makes it all OK. In fact, more than OK.

Thank you Nita.