In my mid-forties, we lived in Milwaukie, Oregon. There was a great group of women in the surrounding neighborhood – Helen, Carmen, and Elizabeth. I was fond of walking up a dirt road alongside Helen’s house. I went up this road because at the top was a resident flock of Stellar Jays – the tradition Blue Jay with the black crown. Just that much altitude made the difference in their habitat. At our house, we had the other Blue Jays which weren’t as much fun to watch.
One day, Helen flagged me down and we sat at her kitchen table and had coffee. A bond formed and I joined her walking group. Three became four. Every morning I would meet Helen and we would trail up the hill and meet Carmen and then the three of us would head on to get Elizabeth. It was a great walk and we became very good friends – leading to birthday celebrations and even political discussions. We were evenly divided on that!
When my daughter married, Helen, who worked part time at a local dress shop, picked out my dress. To this day, I have never received as many compliments as when I wore that pale blue-green dress years ago. We were a close foursome, always ending up at one of the four houses for coffee and a treat post walk. One particular morning, Helen was really excited. A friend of hers had just returned from Hong Kong. She lived in a house we would pass on our walk. That day this gal was having a garage sale. The highlight of the sale was to be a group of designer purses that she would be selling for fifteen dollars each!
Well we all got excited and had our checkbooks with us. She had promised Helen to let us take first looks. All of us were thinking “Christmas” and “Birthday” gifts that would really WOW the recipient and not devastate the pocket book. The brands were iconic – Dooney, Chanel, Birkin, etc. We arrived at the sale and I’m sure we pretty much decimated her purse selection. I remember that I bought four – two for me and one each for Mom and my sister. Helen was our hero!
I immediately filled my new bag as soon as I got home. I tucked the others away with names on the boxes so I wouldn’t forget who I was gifting. Came the proud moment of presentation and I was beside myself – so much joy, so little money! Within two months of purchase I had thrilled my family. Shortly thereafter, however, I had noticed that my Birkin bag was a little ragged looking. It was developing strings and didn’t close as well when I first used it. I’ll just say it wasn’t wearing well.
The girls and I compared notes. I was not the Long Ranger. Helen finally said the dreaded “K” word: knock-off! I worked up my courage and checked in with Mom and Sis. They confessed that their bags had lost shoulder straps, had zippers that didn’t work, etc.! Whether Helen’s friend knew it or not, she had been taken in! Flummoxed by the “fake purse ninjas” (as Steve Martin called them in the movie “Bowfinger”).
Finally, at a memorable lunch, all four of us laughed until we cried, and as one said, “Well, we got what we paid for!” Friends, laughter, fake purses – the best medicine.