As Christmas season approaches, I have a new technique for buying Christmas presents for my children and their spouses. They have been told they have two choices: either tell me exactly what they want or they will get an Amazon gift certificate. This especially will motivate my two sons who work for corporate Walmart.

I’ve just felt like a Christmas failure recently. I bought the men in the family what I thought was a super-cool gift last year and I think only one of them has used it. One admitted he lost it. It was a (pricey) luminous lantern I saw on Shark Tank that is solar powered and even charges phones. All the guys like to camp or cook out, so it seemed a good fit. Or so I thought.

I think Mark Cuban liked it.

Then I bought the womenfolk nice canvas bags with their names monogrammed on them. I wanted ones exactly the size I had gotten the year before as a gift and loved, but that turned out to be difficult to order. What I saw on the website was not like what came for several of them. I returned a couple and tried again.

I called the customer service rep and said, “I want the one I am looking at right now.” She couldn’t see it or even get to the website photograph.

I wound up with a huge one for one daughter-in-law and bought her something else since I just couldn’t send another back. The huge bag stayed on the bedroom floor for months. The bad thing about a monogrammed bag is you can’t give it to someone with a different name. I bought her other gifts, then finally took it to her in the spring.

She loved it! She had that humongous bag packed for a road trip in five minutes flat. We could have survived a zombie apocalypse with everything she had in there.

Other womenfolk used their bags as a church bag full of supplies to entertain children during church and at least one used it for a library book bag. It really is a nice, sturdy bag.

And then there is one I just shake my head over. I felt guilty giving everyone else a bag and not my sister, so I bought my sister, Paulette, one. It was one that wound up the perfect size. The problem is Paulette and her purses are a joke in our blood family and in our church family. She packs them full of what I’ve never been able to figure out, except once in a snack bar we cleaned one out and collected $100 in change at the bottom.

But this bag was not supposed to be an everyday purse. It was too big. It was a specialty bag. Airplane. Beach. Church. Library.

The only thing of those possibilities Paulette does is church, and she usually has three bags for that.

So she showed up one Sunday with the bag and her two other bags.

“This has become my purse,” she said, “but it’s a little heavy.” She was tottering under the weight.

“This was not a purse,” I insisted. “It is a bag.”

“I know, but it just happened,” she said.

I tried to help her with it, but I’m not the strongest person in the world.

“What is in this thing?” I asked.

“I don’t really know,” she said.

The answer had to be “everything.”

The bad thing is it is not good for her arthritis for her to carry something so heavy. The good thing is it has given the teenage boys a way to serve someone at church.

Several of them have assumed the responsibility of being the bag carrier for Paulette. They watch for her to pull up and take her bags out of her car to carry down the long hall and to her spot at the front pew at church.

I think they consider it a workout.

The older men used to help but have gladly relinquished their weighty task. It took three men one night at a dinner to disentangle her from her purse, plate and cup when she needed to sit down. I’m still not sure how that particular convolution even was possible.

She now has switched and has the canvas bag as her church bag and has another heavy official purse. It’s double trouble for the young men.

I’ve dealt with this for years. Any advice I have given has fallen on deaf ears. I only hope if I ever find myself on a desert island with no boat, Paulette is with me. Surely between her bags, we will have everything we need to survive for however long it takes someone to find us.

Actually, maybe I should check in her purse for that lost solar lantern.

Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. She can be reached at or (434) 791-7991.

Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. She can be reached at or (434) 791-7991.

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