It wasn’t hard to notice her amidst the pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The summer heat called for casual and light clothing. Yet, she wore a tweed-like dress that was dull brown and sombre, with a quiet air of dignity.
She had paired the dress with a thin pearl necklace and thick beige stockings. In her hand, I noted a thoroughly used black plastic bag, with no handbag in sight.
It seemed a universal matron look I’d seen everywhere. My middle-aged primary school teacher in Singapore used plastic bags to carry test papers before cloth tote bags came into fashion. In the suburbs of London, an old plastic bag served as an additional carry on with an even older weather-beaten leather tote. I’ve even seen an older woman loop her scarf through her plastic bag in a small bow.
When I lived in Moscow, I recalled older grandmothers or babushkas in Moscow who carried their coin purses and modest snacks in colorful plastic bags as they picnicked in the park. In Shanghai, it was common to see more mature woman use a sturdy plastic bag as an all-in-one carry on.
I’d like to think that the plastic bags they carried reflected the characters of some of these matrons. Practical, efficient and unfussy.