On a good day, my handbag is a disaster. Crinkled receipts. Stray coins. A journal. Broken pens. I often flirt with the idea of downsizing or abandoning the handbag concept all together. Yet, I am somehow married to the conventional idea of carrying one everywhere. Need a piece of gum? Certainly! There’s a pack in the bag. Did you get a papercut? Ouch! Have no fear! Band aids are in the bag! A handbag is the mother of ultimate efficiency. There’s a nook that houses a solution to every potential crisis. Days spent without this magical receptacle are incomplete and hollow. I’m a lost soul. Although a few days ago, I was ready to rocket launch mine into an active volcano. I needed earbuds, which had conveniently settled at the bottom of the pit. A gentle pull on the cord was met with resistance. After two more impatient tugs, the knotted mess then required a hearty yank, which I performed with the grace of an agitated rhinoceros. With a swift swoosh, the earbuds propelled from the bag, revealing the culprit of the tangled massacre. Yet, this was a happy discovery. The snarled cord unearthed my pal, Little Red- the Eiffel Tower replica that keeps residency in my handbag.
Little Red is an À La Prochaine icon over at the Instagram universe. Followers love her antics. You may also recognize her as the header on this website. Yep, that’s her up there on the map alongside my journal. This petite, metal traveling companion is often photographed gallivanting around New England and basking in the fun of our francophile adventures. We explore beaches. We wander around museums. We really enjoy a pain au chocolat on occasion. Little Red loves reveling in the unpredictability of New England seasons or even hitting the books as a tiny, French study buddy. Our shenanigans are limitless. She’s the best.
Upon my return to France in 2015 following a lengthy hiatus, I realized that I had somehow disconnected from my beloved Paris, and French culture in general. The loss of one’s livelihood is all too great a tragedy to endure. Why exist if we’re not fulfilled doing so? I’ll save this existential discussion for another post on another day. Regardless, the cheerful reunion prompted a pledge to stay committed to passion. We owe that to ourselves. The goal was intended to be as simple as tying a ribbon around my finger as a reminder. I wanted something, but what exactly? It had to be somewhat French, naturally. It had to be quirky. It had to be fun. Luckily, after many internet searches, I found and ordered Little Red. No. She’s not from France, but neither am I. We’re both French at heart. That makes us a perfect match, really.
Why did I wait so long to formally introduce Little Red? Originally, she didn’t have a clear significance to À La Prochaine. I didn’t know how to explain her. In a morning tizzy nearly a year ago, I shoved her into my handbag on the way to work. She’s lived there since, only surfacing to mark some fun francophile happening. However, her significance to this project has increasingly evolved to be deeply profound. On a personal level, she reminds me that I don’t need to be in France to stay connected to the beauty of its culture. The Boston area itself affords the average francophile countless opportunities to encounter and engage in French culture. The options are staggering. If only the day held more hours and the week more days! Otherwise, Little Red is globally meaningful. She humbly reminds us that we are all always surrounded by different, fascinating cultures- a seemingly idealistic notion for our current world to digest. Shootings. Hate crimes. Bigotry. Terrorism. These are tumultuous times. Thus, Little Red is the joyful flicker inspiring us to explore ideas we may not immediately understand, and she is a motivator in squashing cultural misunderstanding for a kinder and more accepting coexistence with one another.
Until our next adventure, she’ll be snug and cozy in my handbag of doom. No matter how many times the keys jangle and loop around her in the morning, making the balancing act of holding scolding coffee in one hand and unlocking the office door with the other a futile cause, she’s important. She’s important to me. She’s important to the mission of À La Prochaine. To quote the great William Shakespeare, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” That, my friends, is Little Red.