A story about a time capsule? Okay, but remember this story is actually about two people and a time capsule. Oh, and by the way this time capsule was also a purse. Don't worry, it will all make sense at the end. I promise.
Kathleen, or Kathy for short, was so unique that odd people called her quirky. She was proud of her name, and wanted everyone to know that not all Kathys were alike. She used to say that Cathys with a C were wimps. She always said this with a smile because Kathy loved everyone, even Cathys.
I know what you're saying, she could not have been that unique. Well I'm here to tell you she was. I'll give you an example. Whereas most people go out and buy an ugly sweater before a Christmas party, Kathy’s closet was full of them year-round. When she did attend the aforementioned gatherings the prize would always go to the second ugliest sweater at the party. It was the only way to keep Kathy from winning every year.
Here's another. Kathy also bought hundreds of magnetic multi-colored polka dots to place strategically all over her car so she could always find it in a parking lot. Her husband, Pete, would tell you, however, it had nothing to do with her fear of losing the car, it was just Kathy being Kathy.
She started carrying the purse her first year in high school but - just like everything else she did - it was bigger and louder than any other girl's in town. That was large enough to fit a medium-sized dog, if she'd had a mind to. It had an extra-long strap which allowed her to wear it on the opposite side of her body to handle the additional weight when it was full as it often was.
Once at a baby shower, the host - as part of an ice breaker -offered five dollars for the person who could produce the oddest thing from their purse. One woman had a pair of dirty pantyhose. Two others produced condoms. But Kathy, in her last year of nursing school, simply reached into her purse and retrieved a stool specimen. She collected it earlier that day and, needless to say, she won the contest in a unanimous vote.
Kathy also had another special use for this purse. It was also a time capsule. Don't act shocked, I told you at the beginning the time capsule was a purse.
It’s not easy being different, especially when you are young. Most teenagers do everything they can to fit in, it’s much easier to be part of a crowd than to stand out from one. Kathy, on the other hand, always wanted to be true to herself. As a result, she, like many teenagers who march to their own drum, was misunderstood, ostracized and emotionally bullied. Kathy, never one to let circumstance control her, came up with an ingenious idea. Whenever anything was going badly or she was dealing with something that seemed like the end of the world she would activate her time capsule. The first thing she would do was find a small piece of paper and a pen. She would then write out the current trauma on said paper, ball it up as tight as she could, and throw it in her purse. It was her way of setting the trauma aside and not letting it change who she was or her happy outlook on life.
This trick was great for temporary relief but the real reason for the practice came from its long-term benefit. This is how our hero, Kathy, took an ordinary purse and transformed it into a time capsule. (I know. I know, the purse wasn't ordinary, but neither was Kathy and stop interrupting. I don't want to lose my train of thought)
The thing about having a purse so large is one can go for long periods of time without cleaning it. There were times where it would be years between thorough cleanings but each time Kathy would find these small balls of paper hidden at the bottom and would open them up and read them.
I’m failing math.
Bobby says he doesn’t love me anymore.
I got into a fender bender in mom’s car.
I’m pregnant. Dad’s going to kill me.
These notes were little time machines that would take Kathy back to the days these earth-changing events had happened. Invariably these would have worked themselves out and were no longer the end of time issues. In fact often she'd have forgotten about the problem all together.
Kathy had spent extra time studying and passed math with a “B”.
Bobby was kind of a bad guy anyway, she knew that now.
Mom was so happy Kathy was alright she just hugged her and forgot to be mad about the accident.
Yep, these life-changing events weren’t life-changing at all, except for that last one. That last one is what this story is all about.
Stop complaining, I’m getting to the point as fast as I can.
This part of the story starts after high school. Kathy had gone to college on a math scholarship. Okay, she didn’t really go on a math scholarship, I was just making sure you were paying attention. She did, however, go to college and it was there she had met Charles.
Charles was everything Kathy wasn’t. He wore Oxford button-down shirts and loafers. I know, loafers, who does that? He came from money and had a slight English accent. This was unusual because no one in his family had been to England since before the Revolutionary War. He wasn’t particularly smart or funny, even by accident. He was nothing like Kathy and for some reason that attracted her.
For all of Kathy’s quirks, she had grown into quite a handsome young woman. She had long curly auburn hair and piercing brown eyes. The purse wasn't a magnet but the rest of her attracted the boys like flies and for some reason, Kathy settled on Charles.
Their relationship came and went more quickly than the Edsel, however, there was one lasting effect - Kathy’s unborn child.
Kathy’s parents weren’t particularly religious but they were practicing Catholics. It goes without saying there are few surprises less welcome in a Catholic household than an unexpected pregnancy out of wedlock.
Marriage was not an option as "good old" Charles left school and stopped answering the phone as soon as he found out he was a father to be. Kathy was alone and she wasn’t sure if, for the first time in her life, the time capsule purse would let her down.
As good luck would have it, she would be home for Christmas before she started to show her "situation." This would allow her to surprise her mom and dad with the news.
In case it’s not obvious, I’m being sarcastic there.
She was dreading the conversation and that’s what precipitated that last note on the small ball of paper she threw in her purse just before she got on the bus home.
Christmases at Kathy’s home had always been special. The family, which consisted of Mom, Dad, Kathy, and her five siblings would start the morning after Thanksgiving to transform the house.
Yes, I know, I said five siblings. Remember these are practicing Catholics we are talking about, but I digress.
After hours of work the house would become a Christmas wonderland. A manger on the coffee table. A tree in the center of the family room, and mistletoe over most of the doorways. There were even stocking hung by the chimney with care. Kathy's family, always partial to music, would also play actual Christmas carols in a loop. Kathy's dad like the old favorites like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Silent Night," He wasn't much for the new ones but while he was at work mom let the kids play "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" to their hearts content. And the smells! The Christmas smells. Cookies, eggnog, and wassail made the whole house smell delicious.
I am telling you all this so you can see in your mind's eye what Kathy was walking into. She could skip the Christmas trip and wait until spring break when her over-sized belly could do the talking just bring home a little surprise during summer break. To Kathy, who loved her parents deeply, those ideas were cruel and never an option. She, likewise, could choose to end the pregnancy but that idea left her mind faster than Charles left town. Kathy was less than two months pregnant and she already loved her child. She was keeping it, even if it meant losing her family.
Growing up Kathy had learned there were two ways to win over her dad. The first was food and the second involved her mom.
Kathy knew she had to win over her mom first and then approach her dad. When Kathy broke the news to her mom she paused, sat down for a second, and then started to cook pasta. Kathy's mom knew the two tricks as well and this surprise would take both.
Now I wasn’t there for this conversation, not really, but I’ve spoken to people who were and by that I mean, Kathy, her mom, and - yes- her dad too and the consensus is there is no consensus.
Kathy’s dad said he took the news like a man and after pausing and sitting down, (Are you noticing a pattern here?) hugged his daughter and told her he loved her and it would be it would be alright.
Kathy’s mom said he screamed “What!”, turned bright red, and stopped breathing for a second. He then paused, sat down, and hugged Kathy.
Kathy said, well she said she wasn’t quite sure what happened, she ran out of the room as soon as the words came out of her mouth. She missed everything that happened after the reveal and before the hug.
You see it turned out the time capsule worked after all. Kathy’s dad was shocked and a little disappointed but he was going to be a Poppy, that’s what the little girl ended up calling him, and what dad doesn't want to be a Poppy. The bottom line is he loved Kathy and he couldn’t wait to meet his grandchild.
It’s been years since that day and Kathy never gave up on that purse. Her time capsule worked that day and it’s worked every time since. It has a perfect record.
I'm happy to report, unlike Bobby and Charles, Kathy found a keeper in Pete. He was a loving husband to Kathy and devoted father to her baby girl. You see there were a whole lot less opportunities to use the time capsule because Kathy found true happiness.
So I guess you’re sitting there wondering why I’m telling you this story. Well, you see I have a small part to play in this story too. If you look back you'll see I said this story was about two people, well the other one was me. I was the little girl Kathy decided to keep. Kathy is my mom and today we laid her to rest.
She had some very specific requests for her funeral. The first was very difficult, I’m not going to lie. She insisted her coffin be covered in multi-colored polka dots.
Have you ever tried to put polka dots on a coffin? Of course, you haven’t. No one has. That was a stupid question.
I will say this, it looked ridiculous but that was Mom at her best, being quirky from beyond the grave.
The second request was for laughter. Anyone could give a eulogy but they had to tell a joke first. She wanted people laughing through their tears.
The last, and by far the most emotional for me, was that as soon as she “was feeding worms”, her words not mine, that her big multicolored leather purse was to be passed on to me. It was my greatest joy and most profound sadness to accept her gift and I’m sure you know the first thing I did. I pulled out a little piece of paper and a pen and wrote -
I buried my Mom today. How will I go on without her?
Then I rolled it up in a ball, threw it in my new purse, and headed home. Oh, by the way, I don't have any stool specimens in there, I promise.