I spotted the pretty little evening bag at the Cancer Society's Discovery Shop. I stop in there from time to time when I'm on a boring errand and feel the need for a treasure hunt. It is just the place to spend twenty minutes dreaming on a rainy day.
I try not to buy things I don't need. But I couldn't resist this little objet d'art.
From the wonderful shape of its faux-jeweled clasp, to the perfection with which it was made, it called my name and wouldn't let me go.
Everything about it spoke of another era. The clasp still closed it firmly and with a nice snap after all these years. Inside, it was lined with the most beautiful cream colored silk--hand stitched--and had the name of the maker, or the shop where it was purchased, still clearly visible and printed in gold. Paris, of course.
It had been "lightly used" as they say on eBay. Its owner seems to have enjoyed it--I found a little tobacco residue at the bottom, a reminder of an era when a lady might have put a few cigarettes in her purse for an evening out. But it had been loved with care. Its stitching was still perfect and its lining didn't have a stain on it--rare for an accessory that often carried lipstick and perfume.
The bag was just beautiful. It had a little cream colored silk coin purse inside, attached by a gold chain--and even the chain looked handmade.
The shop was asking $24 dollars and it was a complete waste of money for me! But it needed a nice home, the money went to a good cause: and so I bought it. A couple of the jewels were missing from the clasp and I had a few malachite beads that I knew would fit. You just can't leave a little bag like that lying around with a couple of its bijoux gone missing.
When I got it home I realized it had another lovely little feature: an Art Deco-style strap on its backside, designed so a lady could hold onto it while she was dancing with a gentleman. It looked as if it had come straight out of the art design for a Fred Astaire movie.
I absentmindedly opened the little coin purse. Another surprise! The lady had put a nickel in her bag for emergencies and it was still there after seven decades! In the old days, a nickel was what it took to use a pay phone to call a taxi--an essential if a gentleman misbehaved. And good heavens: what kind of an evening would it be if we couldn't anticipate a little of that?
It was an old Indian head/Buffalo head nickel, and they stopped making those in 1938.
The coin was from 1936. I thought of the year 1936 and the Paris of those days in which the little bag was made. It was just before Hitler marched into the City of Light. Who knows if the owner of the Paris bag had bought it in France or in New York? A symbol of carefree nightlife before war made the lights go out all over the world.
This was much more than I had expected for $24. Like a package of Cracker Jacks, the little velvet treasure had a treasure inside: its story, and a cherished coin from a time gone by. Buffalo Head nickels are themselves worth a few dollars these days. But I'm not going to sell this one.
I put it back in the coin purse and placed the coin purse back in the bag. I may this use this pretty thing or I may not. But the surprise inside goes with the Paris bag. Only a romantic will love it. I want the next one who can't resist it, to have one more thing to find when she looks inside.
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