• Maggie Levine

ArtWrite 11/9: Patrick Quarm

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

“Mama’s bagging the bag, girls,” Ebella called from the front door.

Louise and Vida came running out of their bedroom, still in their pajamas. The girls immediately began to argue about which of the three handbags hanging from the coat tree best matched their mother’s outfit -- the black, the brown, or the wine-red. All the bags had long handles that fit over Ebella’s arm when she wore a winter coat and were roomy enough to hold a pair of shoes along with the Queens Public Library tote that contained everything else.

When the girls finally settled on the red to go with the rosebud pattern on their mother's long silky skirt, Ebella dropped her tote in the chosen bag. The matching pumps were already nestled in brown paper at the bottom. When she got to the bank, she'd change out of her sneakers in the ladies’ room. Ebella had inherited her father’s height and enjoyed knowing that the two additional inches only added to her regal bearing. Although the library tote moved from bag to bag, its contents never changed: a tin of ginger candies, Ebella's house keys on a lanyard that Vida made, and her bulky wallet with photographs, checkbook, pen, cash, and a zippered change compartment where she still kept the 50 pesewas coin that her grandfather had given her when she turned 10. The tote also contained a clear zippered pouch containing a comb, a travel-sized package of Kleenex, and a leather lipstick case with worn gold embossment. Every day, the sound of the case snapping shut marked the end of Ebella's lunch hour.

In the inner pocket of the tote bag, Ebella kept a cache of colored pencils, a sharpener, and her sketch book. The pages were filled with meticulous drawings of flowers from her childhood: Impala lilies, hibiscus, caladium, and yellow trumpets.



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