Summer Reading Contest Winner, Week 6: On ‘The Phantom Handbag’

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Summer Reading Contest Winner, Week 6: On ‘The Phantom Handbag’

Hexuan, 15, from The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Mass., chose an article from the Style section headlined “The Phantom Handbag and wrote:

Even in my most distant memory, Mama always carried this one bag. Covered in black and tan stripes, the Burberry tote looked more like a lunch box than a handbag.

I hated it.

For one thing, it was constantly overflowing—used tissue paper, bandages, hair ties, foundation, random files from work. After years of nagging my mom to get a lighter, more organized bag, the ‘leather-lunch box,’ with its increasingly fuller belly, stayed.

In “The Phantom Handbag” Lou Stoppard reminisces about the time when a fashionable handbag was a necessity, and questions whether it will be relevant after all the suffering. In today’s time, handbags seem altogether impractical: too tiny for the grocery store, too dangly for cycling, too bothersome for protesting. Coupled with the fact that new normals often create shifts in buyer trends, the future of bag buying doesn’t seem all that promising. Like Ms. Hillier said, “there are other things they can spend money on.” Indeed, as people realize there are more to bags than “a status thing,” high-street bag sales might plummet, but the things carried in these luxurious containers will endure.

Though my mom’s bag was a quixotic choice, I now know that within the countless frivolous objects is the wholehearted love of my mother: Tissues for my frequent water spills, bandages for cuts, and ties for my long hair. Whether handbags will see their destiny no longer matters, as the love that was carried with the nitty-gritty will remain constant.

In alphabetical order by the writer’s first name.