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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

How Big is Your Purse?

Okay, I’ll come clean. I got into trouble this week. Almost arrested, and it was because of my purse.

It can be argued that somebody should throw the book at me because of my oversized bag, which needs to carry everything that could possibly be needed by a family of two boys, two girls, two parents and two dogs. What if we were shipwrecked one day? I would have the water purifier, tent, starter matches, and fold-out cots for all.

Truth is, I was in a research facility featuring historic manuscripts. I had my big purse and my camera, accompanying Petya on one of his expeditions to unravel a mystery emanating from the Civil War. If the Ph.D.s didn’t have time to piece together the clues, my 15 year old would. And it was thus that a police officer approached me in the massive Reading Room.

“Excuse me, you have a bag,” he said in a very concerned tone of voice.

“Why yes, I do,” I replied as though it were the most normal thing in the world.

“And you have a camera!” he sounded horrified.

“Yes, that’s right,” I agreed.

Mind you, we had just been to an orientation session for other aspiring Ph.D.s doing research in the august facility known as the Library of Congress, and were informed of some of the dos and don’ts… except that they changed with each reading room… and there were 21 of those, spread over three separate buildings.

“The reference librarian is waiting for others to return from lunch,” I explained. “She told us to come and sit in the rotunda. We’re just getting situated today. We won’t be doing any actual research.”

“Okay…” he nodded. “Just don’t move.”

Well, that was a narrow escape.

I had done months of research here, myself, years ago. Alright, decades ago. It was time to pass the mantle to my son, introducing him to the largest library in the world with 147 million items, 38 million books, with 700 catalogers working in 480 languages as 10,000 items per day were added to the collection.

And they were worrying about my purse.

I glanced around at the other researchers, their wallets, pens and phones carried in clear plastic bags, the rest checked in researchers’ cloakrooms. They worked on laptops, accessing databases that were only available onsite. Others scribbled notes on legal pads.

In my own pre-research research notes, I had read online that purses needed to be the size of a 3×5 card, if not a breathmint. Maybe they wanted it to approximate the rolodex cards that were found in the old card catalogs… which they still had, by the way, only theirs had 22,000 drawers-!

Maybe that was it: bigger was better for them and they had a severe case of Purse Envy. Their goal was to downsize everyone else, so they could feel all big and powerful.

Nah. Probably had more to do with theft.

The problem was, I had no small purses. I had tried, though. My potentially-arresting purse was miniscule, in my mind. Petite. You see, my son had packed a small purse for me, the small and flat messenger-style one that I take to sports. Somehow, it disappeared from my suitcase inbetween one home and another. Now THERE’S a mystery to research.

Benedetto claims that he saw the purse in the suitcase at the dacha. I say I know that our son wanted to help and he packed it. And now, there was nothing there. Mind you, I have evening purses, but a beaded or satiny clutch just didn’t seem to cut it. We scour the house, and I come up with a bag that’s fairly small for me, about the size of a longish brick, or maybe a small loaf of bread. It’s all perspective, isn’t it? I transfer my most key items, and call it a day. Then the policeman shows up.

That night, I pick up a new postage-stamp-size purse. Many of the perfect-fit ones are in the $500 range, which I don’t feel is appropriate for research. At this point, I’m almost considering using one of the kids’ pencil cases, but I need a shoulder strap for the Metro and for long hikes through the underground tunnels joining the Jefferson, Madison, and Adams Buildings. It’s then that I spy the petite pouf on a long chain, able to hold an item or two.

We return the next day, ready to work, special I.D. cards in hand, laptop and cord bare naked, tiny purse, notebooks and pens, no camera. Entering our new reading room for a special collection in another building, the librarian on duty directs our attention to forbidden items: no bags, purses, wallets, jackets, pens, notebooks….

She hands us a quarter to activate the locker, no doubt responding to the dumbfounded looks on our faces, as we seal up our stuff and take the key. She says the quarter will pop back out at the end. Items allowed in this reading room include the computer and a camera, in order to digitally record anything important. The librarian says she will give us loose paper and a pencil. At least she’s not calling the police on us.

Do you think my little purse was lonely in the locker?


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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Kathleen says:

    Too funny! Enjoy your researching.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, Kathleen, we’re having a ball. He’s now on speed-dial (via e-mail, lol) with the top historians in the country who have never heard of his main topic of research-! We’re wondering if this is a trick, like being assigned a math problem that no one can solve. We shall prevail….

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