The Proposal and the Purse

A few weeks ago I posted this writing prompt: when did YOU start carrying a purse, why, and how did your self-identity change? This is one response to that prompt.

By Deborah Wilbrink

Deborah Wilbrink in Cozumel, 1987

It had been a long day, fun and fishing on the ocean. Now I reached into the back seat of the new-smelling coupe for my purse, wanting to refresh my lipstick during the long ride back. It wasn’t there.

“What’s the matter?” asked Gordon.

“I’m really sorry, Gordon, but I left my purse at the restaurant.”

“Well,” he said, “I guess we have to go back.”

“I’m afraid so.” I shrank a bit, afraid of his reaction. Our second date was going well, but this would be a real test! The restaurant, overlooking a Florida marina, was three hours of drive time behind us. I felt like a fool. Of course, this was not the first time I had left a purse somewhere; for years I used my pockets to avoid such awful situations, but here it was again, and this time, it was a disastrous distance in time and space.

Gordon proved to be more of a gentleman than most men I had dated; no more about the purse was said as he turned the car around, and we headed back to the seaside marina where he kept his yacht. Six hours later than scheduled, we pulled into the driveway of his house, still on good terms. The night would deepen those good terms.

The next morning, I met Gordon’s teenaged daughter and his twelve-year-old son, bright, polite kids. Gordon cooked us all a tremendous breakfast of pancakes andeggs and sausage and bacon on a stone cooktop island, the first I had seen. Tomato andorange juice arrived from the bountiful refrigerator, and I thought of the quart of juice at home, watered-down to last the week. We breakfasted at a marble bar in the kitchen, which was full of light from the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked the green fields of his estate. In the distance the view faded into a haze of unmistakable Loblolly pine green, where lumber was the crop. We were miles and miles from town and much further from the amenities of city life. The dew sparkled and glowed, the birds sang, and all seemed right with the world.

After breakfast, the kids cleared out, and Gordon leaned towards me, coming straight to the point.

“I want someone who will enjoy living country life, and be good to my kids. Someone I can marry, who will stay here with me. I have a lot to offer. Are you interested?”

A sudden proposal. Gordon did have a lot to offer. He was handsome, educated, smart and successful, with community standing. He obviously thought I had a lot to offer, too; in every way except financial I was a match for his assets. I had a fatherless son; he had motherless children. But I was not in love, and I liked being a TV producer in the mid-market city where we’d met, an hour and half drive away from Gordon’s lovely home. I did not jump at his offer. It lay on the table, and we left it there, walking away from it to another car, a convertible shimmering the same red-orange shade as his thick hair, and he drove me home, where we said goodbye.

The Purse hadn’t mattered to either of us.


© 2018 Deborah Wilbrink

Deborah Wilbrink is a ghostwriter and editor specializing in memoir, owner of heritage book company Perfect Memoirs. She is the author of Time to Tell Your Personal & Family History, which I reviewed on this blog in 2016. Deb writes, “Sarah White’s Flash Memoir class was a great idea and I expect to work on many more vignettes using what I learned. Thanks, Sarah, for letting me tell some of my own stories for True Stories Well Told.”

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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