Button Connection

Was it because she had no daughter that my grandmother asked my mother, “Do you want my button can?” Perhaps. However, it was not the reason I heard.

No longer would my grandmother walk upstairs and sit at her sewing machine. Her feet would not treadle like a see-saw under the window. Her eyes would not glance out at what used to be her strawberry patch while freckled fingers deftly told the hand wheel when to go and when to stop.

Accepting she had come to the end of those days, my grandmother offered their last link to my mother. Buttons that for years had been snipped from worn-out shirts, blouses, dresses, coats, and pants passed to Mama. There was unspoken hope they would be revived on new garments.

As time would have it, there came a day when Mama relayed the button can—with her additions—to me. I had already begun my own collection; so I merged them. Watching the aged buttons tumble on top of mine, I was surprised to see again the three mother of pearl shell buttons.

Years before while exploring my grandmother’s button can, I had wondered about those iridescent buttons. Where had they once glistened? Had my great-grandmother sewn them on a special dress for my grandmother? Was it an Easter dress? Was it the dress she wore to the disappointing talent show she shared with me from her rocking chair? Or were they worn on something else forever buried in my grandmother’s memory?

In the end, those buttons from long ago, for whatever reason, had not been selected to adorn anything again. Yet, they had never been discarded. Not like “Family Buttons.”

I discovered “Family Buttons” framed and leaning inconspicuously against a box on a garage floor. When I asked the young mother if it was also for sale, she said yes and added, “My grandmother cross-stitched that for me. When she found out she had cancer, she made one for each of her grandchildren before she died.”

“How much do you want for it?”

“Two dollars.”

Fifteen years later “Family Buttons” still speaks from a wall in my home. More than one guest has valued its words:

A button here from Grandma’s gown
Worn on her wedding day;
Another from mine, a pearl one,
Precious as words can say.
That one is from my husband’s shirt,
A blue one, I recall.
And those are from the baby’s things,
That’s why they are so small.
There’s buttons here from children’s clothes
Discarded through the years.
Buttons recalling happy times,
And some recalling tears.
Counting the different buttons
Sewn here around my rhyme
I see they form a history
Of a family—

On the day of his death, Moses taught the people he was about to see no more a song he had written. Among the words is the instruction, “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations” (Deuteronomy 32:7 NASB).


6 thoughts on “Button Connection

  1. What a sweet memory! This also brought back memories of my mother’s button box and how her granddaughter (my niece ) treasured them and asked to keep them when my mother passed away… I, too, recall fascination and playing with those buttons and now have my own collection…yet why do I save them now that I no longer sew? More than a sense of a need to conserve or recycle, your memory has reminded me of this invitation to remember the days of old and mother who stitched my dresses – by hand – with such love and a skill I never mastered at her level. Thanks for the reminder!…


  2. I am glad it brought back good memories for you, Suzanne. I think there is someone somewhere who would enjoy those buttons. The pleasure in them will not die with us. If you search on the web for vintage buttons, you will probably find some interest. Or check out those little girls in your church circle. I remember that I sewed doll clothes by hand when I was seven or less. Wouldn’t I have loved having a button collection then!


  3. Thank you for this message Judy. It reminds me of my Mother’s button tin and all the buttons there within, that one day I too will pass on. What a blessing you are to me. Please continue writing.


  4. Hello Judy. So glad to meet you. There is nothing I like more than a person who shares memories of days gone by. You recall the ‘button jar’, I recall the kitchen smells. Yes, my cherished held memories of my Grandmother are those homemade baked fried apple turnovers; those ham hocks and greens; those peppermint ice cream churns; and those heavenly biscuit aromas. Those were the days, says Edith Bunker…the wife of Archie. Be blessed!


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