Calla Jones Corner

Inside my mother’s purse

On the meaning of inheritance

  • From Spectator Life
(Calla J. Corner)

I’ve been carrying with me a little black silk purse with a tortoise shell closing since my mother died 11 years ago. I suppose it’s one of the last things left from my beloved, stylish mother.

To help me pick out a replacement, I enlisted my seven-year-old granddaughter, Maélle, a fashionista like me and her great grandmother

The little black purse has been sitting in the bottom of my bigger purses; let’s call them handbags, although ‘handbag’ seems so old fashioned a word. I only use ‘handbag’ now to remember my French licence plate – EY 107 HB, ‘every year I buy 107 handbags’ – having moved here following my husband’s sudden death a year ago.

My mother used this little black purse for a lipstick and tiny mirror when she and my father went to a soirée and she had to powder her nose. The purse was one of the gifts she received every year from my father’s godfather, Arthur ‘Red’ Motley, publisher of Parade magazine.

‘Uncle Red’ gave a luncheon party every year in a fancy Manhattan restaurant for the many women he knew and admired in the publishing business. He was far ahead of his time in that recognition and loved women – especially my mother, who wrote FYI, the in-house magazine for Time, Inc. when my father went to war as a correspondent for the American Office of War Information.

My mother looked forward to that lunch every year and neither ‘hell nor high-water’ nor a Connecticut snow-storm – as once happened – would keep her from attending. She would return on the last commuter train to Westport, where she would be picked up by my father, always carrying a gift from Red and a slew of captivating stories and gossip about the other lunch attendees.

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