I am obsessed with handbags. This obsession is 8 years strong now. Not coincidentally, the same amount of time that Mattie has been diagnosed with Autism.
Mattie’s Autism has changed not only changed my out look on the world, but they way I look in general. As a former Esthetician and Make up artist for Elizabeth Grady Corporation, I had spent the early days of my career and marriage as a high maintenance, pampered diva who wore Channel lipstick and silk blouses. My nails were always red, or hot pink and my pedicure was always a shade darker. I had a short, very chic haircut, that was as blonde as the bleach would allow, and my body was perfectly waxed from head to toe. I didn’t leave the house with out earrings, my gold watch and a spritz of my latest costly perfume.
I still can recall the names of the lipsticks I wore then- Coco pink, and Coco Topaz. The designers I wore-Adrienne Vittadini, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan. But I can not remember a single handbag I owned then. Not the style, color or brand. They were not important. No one ever saw them in the salon- so they didn’t matter.
When I went into labor with my first child, Katharine, I left for the hospital at 1 in the morning, perfectly coiffed and made up and looking like I was on my way to fancy restaurant. It had been drilled into me at work, that you never knew when you wold run into one of your clients, and the Grady corporation expected us to look chic and perfect, at all times.
As Mattie’s Autism became more apparent in our lives, so did the change in my appearance. Mattie’s Autism also caused Sensory issues with him, that overflowed into what I could, and could not, wear. Earrings in my ears bothered him, so he pulled them out. He spilled almost every liquid he could get his hands on, so my clothes would be stained and needed to be easy to wash and wear. I carried, and still carry him a lot, so I needed shoes that would not slip and were comfortable. Having to constantly watch him meant not having a great deal of time for make up or styling my hair, if I even HAD the time to GET to the hairdresser. Simplicity was a must, and having a easy morning routine, was,and is, crucial to his safety.
These days I run Mattie out to meet the bus with wet, combed hair and my uniform of jeans, a tee shirt, and minimal make up. All jewelry must wait to be put on till after he leaves, or it will be ripped off and lost. Perfume is rarely remembered, as is any type of co-ordinating accessory.
The only piece of fashion I can rely on these days is a handbag. And I have had more handbags in the last 8 years than most women have had in a life time. It has become what my friends call “Sandy’s Thing”. If I tell my friends Janice, or Gina to meet me in Marshall’s or Tj Maxx, they know I will be in the handbag isle.
I am an expert in the world of handbags. I can tell you the current designers that are on the rise, or petering out. I know that B. Makowsky is the brand name of Kathy Van Zeeland’s husband. That all the “cheaper ” lines- Guess, Fossil, Strada, and Nine West, all look to the higher brands to copy- Coach, Lucky Brand, Dooney and Bourke,and Tingnanello. That Messenger bags are hot right now, as are animal prints.
I have been hunting all week for the Perfect Fall bag, never willing to pay full price, always on the lookout for an incredible bargain. I know that I will find a perfect bag, and that it will ultimately be replaced by another, even more perfect bag, in a few months. I even know this has nothing to do with the bag, the season or the current trends. It is because this is the last sole expression of fashion that I have left. The only one that can make me stand out, in this female way. These days, for me, it is about the safety and well being of a 10 year old boy. A boy, I, as well as every member of my family, have given up much for, and would do so, over again. These days it is all about Autism and the Perfect handbag.