So here’s the thing, I want to tell you a story about a time capsule.
Wait, that’s not entirely true. It’s really a story about two people and a time capsule. Oh, and by the way, this time capsule is 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 even peculiar people called her quirky. She was proud of her name, although she wanted everyone to know that not all Kathys were alike. She was fond of saying 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 thinking, she couldn't 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 example. Kathy 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 the fear of losing the car—it was just Kathy being Kathy.
That brings us to the reason for this story: the time capsule. I told you it was also a purse, right? Good. Well, Kathy 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. The monstrosity was large enough to fit a medium-sized dog comfortably. I'm not entirely sure why someone would want to carry a medium sized dog in a purse, but you get the idea. In addition, it had an extra-long strap. It had to. It was the only way she could carry it on the opposite side of her body. This was critical because the purse was unbelievably heavy when it was full, and it was often full of the strangest things.
Once at a baby shower, the host—as part of an ice breaker—offered five dollars to the attendee who could produce the oddest item from her purse. One woman had a pair of dirty pantyhose. Another produced a box of condoms. A third, the remaining bit of a partially eaten egg salad sandwich. But Kathy, in her last year of nursing school, simply reached into her purse and retrieved a stool specimen. She had 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. In an instant it could be transformed into, you guessed it, a time capsule. Don't act shocked—I’ve told you about that at least three times.
The important thing to understand is it’s not easy being different, especially when you are young. Most teenagers do everything they can to fit in, as 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 drums, was misunderstood, ostracized, and 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 purse’s secret super-power.
The first thing she would do was to find a small piece of paper and a pen. She would then write out the current trauma on said paper, ball it up as tightly as she could, and throw it in her purse. It was her way of setting the problem aside while 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 benefits. This is when our hero, Kathy, would take her ordinary purse and transform it into a time capsule.
(I know. I know. The purse wasn't ordinary, but neither was Kathy. 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 emptying it. There were times where it would be years between cleanings, but each time she did, Kathy would find those small balls of paper, 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.
Those notes were little time machines that would take Kathy back to the days each earth-changing event had happened. Invariably things had worked themselves out. To say the least, they 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, and she knew that now.
Mom was so happy Kathy was alright that she just hugged her and forgot to be mad about the accident.
Yep, it turned out 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.)
Where was I? Oh, that’s right, 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 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 that attracted her.
It’s also important that you know that despite all of Kathy’s quirks, she had grown into quite the handsome young woman. She had long curly auburn hair and piercing brown eyes. The purse wasn't a magnet for the fellas, but the rest of her attracted them like flies. For some reason, Kathy settled on Charles.
Their relationship came and went more quickly than the Edsel; however, there was one lasting reminder—Kathy’s unborn child.
This was problematic to say the least. You see 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, on the other hand, was not an option. "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 unsure 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 "predicament." 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 that conversation and that’s what precipitated that last note. She quickly scribbled her concern down and, after wadding the paper up as tightly as she could, threw it in her purse just before climbing onto 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 always start preparing for Christmas the Friday morning after Thanksgiving.
(Yes, I know, I said five siblings. Remember these are practicing Catholics we are talking about, but I digress.)
After hours of decorating, her childhood home would be transformed from an average suburban two-story into a Christmas wonderland. There was the manger on the coffee table, a tree in the center of the family room, and mistletoe over most of the doorways. In the back of the room, where the fireplace warmed the home and their hearts, were stockings, hung by the chimney with care.
Kathy's family, always partial to music, played Christmas carols on a loop. Kathy's dad loved the old favorites like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Silent Night," but while he was at work mom let the kids play "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" to their heart's content.
And the smells! The fantastic Christmas smells. Cookies cooking, eggnog nogging, and wassail simmering made the whole house smell holiday delicious.
I am telling you all of this so you can see, in your mind's eye, what Kathy was walking into. She knew she could skip the Christmas trip and wait until spring break when her over-sized belly could do the talking or just bring home a little surprise during summer break, but she was no coward. To Kathy, who loved her parents deeply, those ideas were cruel. She, likewise, could choose to end the pregnancy but that idea left her mind faster than Charles had left town. Kathy was less than two months pregnant and yet, she already loved her child. She was keeping it, even if it meant disappointing her family.
The good thing was Kathy had a plan. As a young girl, Kathy had learned when breaking bad news there were only two ways to soften the blow for her dad. The first was with food and the second involved her mom. Kathy knew she had to win over her mom first before approaching her dad. When the time was right and they were alone, Kathy confided the news to her mom. The revelation set off a familiar response. Her mother paused, sat down for a second, and then stood back up and started to cook pasta. Kathy's mom, you see, knew the two tricks as well, and this surprise would most assuredly take both.
Now I wasn’t there for the conversation with Kathy’s dad, but I’ve spoken to people who were and by that I mean, Kathy, her mom, and—yes—her dad, too. The consensus was there was 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, said he loved her and promised everything would be alright.
Kathy’s mom said her father screamed “What!” and turned bright red. He even stopped breathing for a minute. He then paused, sat down, and hugged Kathy.
Kathy said, well, she said she wasn’t quite sure what happened. She had run 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 had 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 first grandchild.
It’s been years since that day and Kathy never gave up on her purse. Her time capsule worked that Christmas so long ago, 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 fewer 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. Well, you see I have a small part to play in this, 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 the worms” (her words not mine), her oversized 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.)