Who Knew An Empty Bag Could Contain So Much Bad Ju-Ju??

When my parents came up from Tennessee for Thanksgiving, they brought a big bag to me from Kate, which contained a few Yankee Candles I purchased from Bean during a preschool fundraiser (they’re getting those kids out earlier and earlier!). As I was taking the candles out of the bag, I noticed something in there that I didn’t expect: it was a quilted bag/purse that I had given to Kate two years ago. This bag is awesome. My aunt, who is a phenomenal quilter, gave me a couple of them and when I saw this particular one I knew I would have to give it to Kate because of the colors in the fabric. The oranges totally said “Kate!”

When I found it in the shopping bag, I wondered why I now had this bag back. Was she regifting me with something I gave to her? The horror! I couldn’t figure out why she put it there and made a mental note to ask her about it.

And then, as I do with countless other mental notes, promptly forgot about it. (I was busy for Thanksgiving, okay???)

Tuesday night, she called me to discuss Bean’s Christmas gift; I had asked her for ideas. As we were talking, she suddenly brought up the bag.

“Did you see the bag in there?”

“Of course I did. Why did you send it up? Regift? I gave that to you, you know.”

She laughed. “No, no…you’re going to think I’m a total freak, but I had to send it to you because each time I would pull it out to use it, I started to feel really sick and my stomach would hurt. Then I suddenly realized that I had been using it on that day.”


“That day” was the last day of our Europe trip in 2006. It all started out just fine; we had been staying in Dresden for a couple of days and wanted to take a boat down the Elbe River to the town of Meissen. I had read about their porcelain and the town sounded like a great destination for a daytrip.

Unfortunately, rain was in the forecast. It was our last day, though, so we pressed on. We boarded the boat and for the first few minutes we really enjoyed looking at the rain-soaked scenery from under the canopy. Bean was all smiles, that’s for sure.

It was the perfect day for a warm drink, so we ordered hot cocoa. That decision led to this, one of my favorite photos ever, of anyone, in the thousands and thousands of photos in my possession. I once posted a fraction of this photo, adding that Kate would probably put a contract out on me if I posted the whole thing, but it’s just too awesome of a photo not to risk that.

Doesn’t everything just click in this photo? From the beautifully complimentary color scheme of her hair, shirt, and mug to the “Swiss Miss Instant Cocoa Girl” smile, I just love it.

Shortly after this photo was taken, it all went to hell. The rain got heavier. We got colder. We were idiots because, though Bean had a jacket, we wore short sleeves. We were ill-prepared for the weather and figured we could wait until the boat dropped us off in Meissen to purchase some souvenir sweatshirts.

Then Bean got restless. You can only entertain an exhausted-from-vacationing-in-Liverpool-and-then-in-Dresden toddler in a closed space for so long before she goes bonkers. I pushed her around that boat in her stroller for the last half of the cruise, so she wouldn’t cry as much.

By the time we got off the boat, it was POURING. I grabbed the stroller and Kate carried Bean. Bean was fussy and in full tantrum mode as we walked quickly from the dock to somewhere–anywhere–that would provide a roof to stand under while we gathered ourselved together. Kate had lost her patience with Bean before we got to the center of town and I know that, had I not been along, she would have turned right back around and got on the boat back to Dresden, crying toddler or not.

We pressed on and ducked into the first clothing store we could find. There were no souvenir sweatshirts (silly Americans: don’t all small towns have their own souvenir apparel???); just a couple of designer sweatshirts that cost more than what we wanted to pay. So we stayed cold. And wet.

The town, though quaint, suddenly wasn’t interesting in the downpour. We found the Rathskeller, and stepped in to eat lunch. It was a real, sit-down restaurant and Bean was the only child there. Oops. But we had to eat.

We both tried to entertain Bean during lunch, and she wasn’t having too much of it. When we were finished, Kate pulled her wallet out of the bag (yes, the one pictured above) to pay the check, and after paying, she took Bean to the restroom while I gathered all of our belongings, attached things to the stroller, and waited by the door of the restaurant, where I took this photo:

Kate and Bean came to meet me and we hurried out in the rain, to inquire about catching a cab back to Dresden. We were just…Done.

The cab came and we loaded the stroller in the trunk, got inside, and started to drive down the street when Kate suddenly became frantic.

“My wallet…it’s gone!”

Sure enough, it was. We traced back in our minds to lunch, and I thought for sure that she put her wallet back into the bag; anyway, as I was packing up our stuff I checked the table area really well for anything that belonged to us, and would have seen it. She, of course, was totally upset and completely lost it.

“What are we going to do???”

Um, I had no idea.

Get out of the cab, for starters.

And that, we did. The cabbie was not happy. Neither were we.

I’m normally not at such a loss for advice, but this one–the timing, location, everything–totally threw me for a loop.

Her wallet had cash in it. Mine did not. Oops. We had just gone to the ATM the day before (I can’t remember what happened to my money! I think I spent some and left some in the hotel safe), and her wallet contained a couple hundred dollars. Also, her license, work ID, and credit cards were in there. Not in there? Her passport. Thank goodness for small miracles.

So, we’re out of the cab. What do we do? Backtrack on foot, in the pouring rain, looking at the ground to see if we dropped the wallet. Back at the restaurant, we asked around: nobody had seen it (or so they said). We went to a little information office in the town square to see if anyone had turned in an American wallet. Of course not. We concluded that we either left it on the table and someone took it, or a pickpocket found us. We’ll never know.

We walked to the train station to see if we could find an ATM for me to use and navigate our way back to Dresden. ATM? Yes. Used it, and got ourselves some moolah. We found the ticket machine and although my German was good enough on the trip to that point, suddenly the complexity of this machine really got me. We had to find someone who spoke English, so they could help us. You may not know this, but there are far fewer English speakers in Eastern Germany; I’m assuming that in some areas it’s a remnant of when the country was divided into West and East. I enjoyed that I had to use more German during the trip, actually, but this was a challenge that became a little scary for a minute.

We went up to the train platform and found a college-aged girl. “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” I asked, and she did.


She was happy to help us with the ticket machine, and we were soon boarding the train. We found seats right away (the train was quite nice!), and the only other people in our compartment were a few police officers. Someone came by to take our tickets, and we soon found out why we were practically alone: we had seated ourselves in First Class. We should have been in the totally crowded compartment behind us. Oops. The woman took pity on us foreigners and let us stay there. The ride was quiet; when Kate uttered any sounds, it was mostly to mutter, “I will NEVER come to this part of Europe again. EVER. EVER!!!!” I decided that for my own safety I wouldn’t try to change her mind on that day; maybe later.

We arrived in Dresden and walked briskly back to the hotel, where we crossed paths with Kate’s husband in the lobby. The first thing she said to him?

Understandably, it was not “Hi, honey!”

It was, “MY WALLET GOT STOLEN!!” He said, “Okay, we’ll take care of it.” She said, “But it’s the wallet you got me for Christmas!”

He sprung into action as we all headed up to our adjoining rooms. I watched Bean for a bit in my room while they got on the phone and online, closing credit cards, etc. After the real business was done, her awesome husband didn’t waste any time in ordering another wallet exactly like the one that was now gone; it would be waiting for them at home. I will never forget that; he took care of that one sweet little detail amongst all the other business, just to try to make her feel a little better.

Bean was really ready for a nap after such a long day so far. They took her into their room and closed the door between us. I decided to go walking by myself into the downtown area. I took some great photos, which I’ll share another time. It was a glorious feeling, walking around in Germany by myself.

I headed back to the hotel; Kate and Scott had originally planned to go out alone for the first time in our entire week in Europe together while I watched Bean. It would have been really nice for them to have a quiet, romantic dinner after such a crappy day.

When I returned, Scott had taken Bean–crabby after napping little to not at all–down to the FANCY RESTAURANT downstairs, figuring he would eat with her down there, keeping her out of Kate’s hair for a while. He came back shortly, with his steak (I guess they do “To Go” if they want to get rid of a toddler!) and his whiny daughter.

As it turned out, the quiet, “romantic” (ha ha) dinner would be had by Kate and me as we left the room, walked out into the now-sunshiny day, and made our way to the old part of the city. We ate dinner at an outdoor restaurant in the shadow of the Frauenkirche (probably one of the most beautiful churches on earth), and had this view:

We had a nice, reflective dinner; it was a great ending to our time together as they were headed to visit friends in Austria the next day and I was headed home bright and early. Dessert? Yum:


Back to Tuesday night’s conversation…
Kate wanted me to hang on to the bag for a while, perhaps use it the next time we’re together to load it up with good memories, so she can use it on her own again without feeling the need to lie down or visit the doctor!

So Kate, since the only time you read my blog is when I send you a link because you want to know when I’ve once again “made you famous”, and I absolutely know you are reading this now (after clicking on the link in my e-mail), I have decided to summarize the good parts of that day, stuff that is “still in the bag”, if you will.

Good things about that day:
1. We were together.
2. We were in Europe, for goodness sakes.
3. We had adventure.
4. I took an awesome AND awesomely funny picture of you.
5. We sort of had our own version of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” going that day, and certainly not everybody can say that.
6. We found a nice girl to help us buy train tickets.
7. We got to experience First Class train travel in Germany.
8. Your husband once again displayed why he’s a stellar individual and how much he loves you and wants you to be happy.
9. We had a good laugh, picturing Scott trying to deal with Bean in that hotel restaurant.
10. I got to walk around the city alone. (Yay me!)
11. You had a Spetzi at dinner, didn’t you? Yum.
12. The view at dinner? Ahhhh….
13. Dinner + Dessert? What a way to end a trip!
14. Your passport wasn’t in your wallet.
15. Everything turned out fine.
16. It makes a great story.

So see? That bag is full of Good Stuff too. And you ARE a freak, but I mean that in the most loving way possible. But I’ll carry the bag for you, for a while…Freak! ha ha



  • Mom24

    I have to say, after reading your list about what was good about ‘that day’, I think I’d be using that bag until it was held together by duck tape!

  • Kat

    Hilarious post. Sorry it all went so wrong back then. Hey Kate…I will send good thoughts from Germany to Melisa and she will stuff it in the bag and hopefully you will only experience pleasant things from hereon in.

    You’re right people in the Eastern part of Germany used to be taught Russian instead of English so you would have been more likely to find help with the ATM had you been Russian.

    Glad you’re American though or else I wouldn’t have met you on here:)

  • Melissa

    I get the feeling (I might be wrong) that you think Kate is a freak? 🙂

    I’m glad in the end everything turned out ok…though I’m with Kate…I would have sent you the bag, too!

  • Anonymous

    “I got to walk around the city alone. (Yay me!) you so funnt!

    I am ten minutes away from plugging your book on tv!! (yes, I have to work this morning!!)
    weather kim in dc and on tv

  • Michelle

    Oh what a day… good reason to switch the bag around though 🙂 Bring it out the next time to go to lunch with Manic et al?

    And I know what you mean about the German/English. I speak no German and went to Vilsbiburg (berg?) for two weeks to visit a friend working there. NO one spoke English. It was fun 🙂