June 2016 Column from The Irish American News

Charlotte Houlihan
Charlotte Houlihan

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

I’ll admit it. I’m a naturally nosey person.

Even as a kid I loved rummaging through my mom’s purse to see what was in there. Nor was I averse to copping a finnski out of her purse while she was asleep. That type of perfidy came back to haunt me one drunken night in college when I was caught rifling purses in the cloak room of a pub. I was promptly taken out in the back alley and pummeled.

In the words of my late mother, “The bitter lesson is best taught.”

So I’ve abstained from searching ladies’ wallets since then. Until last weekend.

I was hanging out with my favorite granddaughter Charlotte Houlihan and we had planned an afternoon of fun at the aptly named “Monkey Island” in Melrose Park. That turned out to be a nightmare for me and nirvana for Charlotte as she ran wild with hundreds of other kids screaming and squealing as they climbed all over the slides, bouncy houses, and assorted obstacles.

Like any sophisticated six-year-old, Charlotte had brought her purse with her in the car when I picked her up that day. The next day as I glanced in the back seat I noticed she had left it behind.

I eyeballed this little pocket purse with zipper and Dooney and Bourke logos all over it and my old instincts kicked in. Of course there wouldn’t be any money or makeup in it so what in the world would a six-year-old girl keep in her purse?

I took it upstairs, opened it up, and spread the contents on my kitchen table.

Inside were a half-eaten pack of Watermelon flavored gum, two sticks left.

Some chicklets as well, three pieces.

A tiny little doll figurine about an inch high.

One piece of a tiny pair of black and white dice, made by Bicycle, the playing card company.

A little purple treasure chest, from a doll house, empty.

A miniature plastic cupcake, also obviously from a doll house.

A dried flower, purple, probably a lilac.

Two quarters, two nickels, and a dime.

That doesn’t sound like much, but the purse was so small with all these things jammed into it, which gave the diminutive purse the appearance of bounty.

It seemed to me to be the perfect metaphor for Charlotte.

Yes, she is small and very young but packed with character. She is after all, a first grader who is going to be seven in August as she constantly reminds me.

The next day we went through the contents of her purse together, and yes she had a story for each item. Finally, she pulled a small rubber band bracelet from the purse that I had overlooked and asked me, “Did you see my key to heaven?”

The bracelet was one she had made herself from her supply of tiny colored rubber bands interwoven to create a braid and attached was a small liturgical looking key.

The key to heaven, she called it.key to heaven

Now I know Charlotte is familiar with the concept of heaven because we talk about it often. It’s where my mother and father are, along with my brothers, and many other relatives who have died. It’s also where Jesus lives and she knows that too.

I took a photo of Charlotte’s key to heaven on her wrist and told her I was going to write about her purse and all the wonderful items she keeps in it.

She seemed flattered, “Are you going to say, ‘my granddaughter Charlotte’s purse?’”

I am, and I’m also going to say that I think MY key to heaven is my little darling Charlotte.