When I was in kindergarten my family, which was on the poor side, lived in the attic of my grandma’s house at 2238 N. Orchard St., Chicago. Don’t look for it. The house burned down and it’s condos now. Although I didn’t realize it, being poor had advantages, such as you could get away with picking garbage, you got free shots at the Welfare clinic and you were never required to go to those boring country club dinners. Since I didn’t know what a country club was and I didn’t like getting shots it was the easy accessibility to garbage that I appreciated, and it provided me with hours of fun and games.
One fine day I spied a handbag in the alley. This was the “Rat Alley” called Pearl Court, described in a previous post. I grabbed that handbag and took off down Pearl Court, looking for more treasure. To my surprise and excitement, this was the weekend that all the neighborhood dames had conspired to toss their purses. There was a bag at nearly every garbage station! I took only the ones with jewels, sequins and other crud attached. Plain brown bags and staid totes languished, unloved and unwanted. I returned to Grandma’s house will a haul of about 10 handbags, all fancy and dressed up for the ball.
It took me a while to decide what to do with them, but I eventually had a brainstorm. I got a big jar, filled it with water and proceeded to hack off all the jewels on each handbag. I put them into the jar with the water. Imagine, if you will, a tiny 5-year-old imp with black hair and blue eyes sitting alone at a huge dining room table, staring at all that junk floating in the jar and thinking, “This is the happiest day of my life!”