That Vera Bradley

I bought one of my daughters a Vera Bradley lunch bag. And it wasn’t on sale.

That’s a little showy and obnoxious. And pretentious. So I’m here to come clean.

I know -- I don't get it either.

But if you could have seen her sweet little freckled face as she carried the shopping bag to the car, and if you could have seen her buckle herself up in her car seat and take that lunch bag from the shopping bag and hold it as if it were the Hope diamond, and if you could have measured that wide grin (you couldn’t possibly), then you would have known exactly why I bought that lunch bag.

“You know, Sally, here’s the thing. That lunch bag. . .,” I said, driving down the road, explaining away the excessive purchase and all the (excuse the pun) baggage that goes along with it. “It’s not often that I go into a store with one of you kids and do something . . .”

“Nice?” Smart aleck.

“NO. That’s not what I was going to say. I think the word I was looking for here was indulgent or spontaneous.”

She looked out the window, still tightly holding the lunch bag in the Sittin’ in a Tree pattern, and said, “Whatever it was, I’m glad you bought it.”

And if you could have seen that green-eyed monster of a sister when she got home that afternoon, demanding to know why SHE didn’t get a Vera Bradley lunch bag and why SHE is the one who needs a new lunch bag because the frog lunch bag bought at Wal-Mart for $5 two years ago is gross and falling apart, then you would fully understand my longstanding resistance to all things Vera Bradley.

But know that I knocked down this particular sister a notch or two and told her to cool her heels because I didn’t raise children who are spiteful and jealous and just remember that I have the authority to buy or not buy any darn thing I please for anyone I please and that she’ll go through this life without ever owning a Vera Bradley anything, if that’s the way I want it to be.

It’s like I had splashed cold water on her face, and she came to her senses. She knew I was right because seldom had she ever cried “foul” when somebody got something she wanted. But that day was different. And here’s why: Vera Bradley brings out the ugly. And I don’t just mean the Super Tote in Puccini.

Vera Bradley has a knack for bubbling up the worst in little people. I’ve heard little girls take verbal swipes at other little girls who were carrying $10 knockoffs from Dollar General that, to be honest, looked identical to the MeeMaw bags the little snots were carrying. Not that I’m bitter — I just don’t care for little snots and their belittling ways.

But little girls aren’t alone in their Vera Bradley snobbery. I was eating CATFISH at a BARBECUE joint last week with a Vera-Bradley-purse-carrying friend, who made me switch places with her in the booth because the tracklighting was blinding her, so I spent the evening under the spotlights, sitting next to her Vera Bradley quilted bag that she left on my side of the booth. At some point during the meal, my knife slipped from my hand and went sailing through the air, landing directly. Beside. The. Bag. It was like the scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie drops the hubcap full of bolts. Never mind that I sacrificed a piece of catfish in that incident. Never mind that it was a knife that could have injured me. Never mind the deafening sound it made as it first hit my plate and caused everyone in the restaurant to turn around. I had committed the unpardonable sin of endangering her Raspberry Fizz handbag that she bought in St. Louis. (Not to worry; I was not injured, and the precious bag was unscathed.)

I have fought the Vera Bradley bug long enough to believe that the darn things should probably already be out of style, so falling prey to the craze this late in the game seems a little . . . sad. Like being the last kid in middle school to wear Gloria Vanderbilt jeans (me), or, in more modern times, the only high school freshman in his school who doesn’t have a cell phone (my son, who can weave a tall tale but still can’t make me feel sorry for him, no matter how hard he tries).

But quilts never go out of style, so why should Vera Bradley luggage and accessories? For all I know, they’re here to stay. A little research revealed that these things have been around since the ’80s. I say, holding out thirtysomething years for a $26 quilted lunch bag makes me a hard sell, don’t you think? Or a cheapskate.

Vera Bradley doesn't look like she meant any harm. Born Aug. 9, 1909, she was model, mother, hostess and friend. Her classic style and grace inspired the line of luggage and accessories that today drive young people to envy and well-meaning moms to uncharacteristic spending.

Whatever you call me — hard sell, cheapskate, sociopath — I can also be indulgent. Spontaneous. And nice.

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