This past weekend, I made an overnight trip to New York City. “What in the world are you taking?” Keith asked as he hefted my duffel bag into the back seat of the car. “It’s only one night.” And thirteen hours in the Quiet Car, round trip.

“Oh, just sundries, boots, change of underwear and clothes, a pretty outfit to go out to dinner, two books, a notebook, iPad, laptop, chargers, and curling iron,” I said. Since my son recently moved back to Manhattan, I also packed a large, deep-frozen container of homemade spaghetti sauce in an insulated bag with shoulder straps. At the Charlottesville Station, I slung the insulated bag and my purse over one shoulder and the duffel over the other.

NYCSnowMarch2017The things I carried onto the train, into Penn Station, and up 8th Avenue to the hotel—here’s a snow-covered, rooftop view from my room on the 37th floor.

I’ve always envied men who carry all they need in their pockets and women whose lives fit into cute little clutches or evening bags. My purse? Big—for whatever situation I might face.

The things I carry: a wallet—paperclips, safety and bobby pins mixed with the coins—an umbrella, three pairs of glasses (sun, distance, reading), first aid items and sewing kit, small flashlight, pens and pencils, cell phone, keys, makeup pouch with lipstick, mirror and comb, Kleenex pouch, business cards—mine and others’—and small notebooks for reminders and writing ideas like this one. The purse strap has grooved my right shoulder, and over the years I’ve developed a lop-sided stoop.


Several years ago, novelist and teacher Tim O’Brien wrote a collection of linked short stories titled, The Things They Carried, about his experience in the Vietnam War. The semi-autobiographical characters carry various items in their backpacks. Protagonist Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carries letters from and photographs of a girl back home. Others carry such items as mosquito repellant, marijuana, pocketknives, chewing gum, extra rations, a girlfriend’s pantyhose, tranquilizers, an illustrated New Testament, ponchos, M-16 rifles and several magazines of ammunition, grenade launchers, maps, compasses, morphine, malaria tablets, and other medical supplies.

Mostly, the young men carried themselves and the burden of killing and sudden death.


During this Lenten season, I’m thinking about another’s death and life and the things He carried. Perhaps I could trust Him a little more, unburden myself, and stand a little straighter.

What things do you carry?


  1. keithakenny

    Indeed, you carried twice as much as I carried on our week-long trip to Scotland.

  2. Carole Duff

    Yup, and I carried four times as much then. I have much to learn about trust. -C.D.



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