Memories of a Button

I’ve often been asked, if there is a domestic icon other than the apron that serves as a memory trigger. Although I’ve given it lots of thought, I could not come up with one.
The button box posting, however, turned out to be a surprising trigger for many. Given the ten+ years I’ve collected recollections prompted by the apron, I should have anticipated there’d be a response to the button box. After all, both are within our domestic history, and had I thought about it, I would have figured the button box also connects us to earlier generations.
One story I received is so precious, I had to share it with y’all. Tracy Fullington of Georgetown, Kentucky writes:
“You’ve just inspired me to collect my buttons and sift through them like stones. Reading your blog and seeing this bountiful button box makes me so nostalgic…

I remember being just six years old and finding a pearly white two-holed button on the playground one day. She shone with grandeur in my eyes and I pocketed the small treasure. I wondered what stories she would tell me if only I could listen close enough… How did she fall to the lonely ground? Had she popped off a fairy princess’ gown? Oh, the stories Miss Button might hold… Try as I might, my incessant chattering to Miss Button and my classmates unveiled no magical stories. Instead, my chatter landed me, my desk and Miss Button in front of the class and next to my first grade teacher, Mrs. Rich. Instructed to stop talking to my classmates, my only concern was whether I could continue to talk to Miss Button. To my delight, I was allowed to chatter on to Miss Button, who never did reveal her secrets. Oh, to be childlike and innocent enough to lose yourself imagining life through the eyes of a button…”

I asked Tracy if her mother recalled Miss Button, which prompted further recollection:

“I remember the first grade button–you had a little box you kept all the ones you found in. I know I got in trouble with you when I washed your jeans and you thought button was gone. Luckily,it turned up in bottom of washer!! I sure remember you were always intrigued with unusual buttons. Grammy kept her button collection in a canister–you always wanted to dump them out and play with them. That’s how I taught you to count–add and subtract. You always wanted to take the canister to school, but I knew better for you–so it stayed home. Still have the canister of buttons of Grammy’s–now and then I need one to replace one. I also remember where lots she saved came from–my childhood.”

On its own, Tracy’s story is perfect. However, it’s the addition of her mother’s memory of the same incident that creates a collective, generational keepsake. And the school photo of Tracy was scanned by her dad…a true family collaboration.
Storytelling is made all the better when different perspectives can be interwoven. If the women and men of your life are still here, ask the simplest question – Do you remember that time…and prepare to be delighted with the response.
Aprons. Button Boxes. Just ask the question.
Tie One On…an apron, of course!
P.S. Five days left to enter the Sweetie-Pie Giveaway! Click here for details.

A Button Box Quandry

Oh, the sadness when a covered button loses its dyed-to-match leather top. For weeks I’ve considered the option of cutting a small piece of fabric from the inside hem or cuff, but figured if one button popped loose, the others will eventually do the same.

The only option left was replacing the four buttons with new. And for that solution, I turned to my button box. Actually a large tin, it once held moon cakes – pastries particular to the Chinese new year celebration, which we’d received as a gift from “Ben,” our very sweet Dali guide when we visited China several years ago. I have great affection for this tin because it reminds me of that trip, which was our 30th anniversary gift to ourselves.My button box holds a joyful jumble removed from shirts destined for the rag bag to a collection of vintage beauties. I know people who separate their buttons by color and display them in old canning jars, but I like mine loose…the better to swirl my fingers through the layers, revealing a hidden gem I don’t remember ever seeing before! My button fixation goes backto when I was a girl and learning to sew. Threading a needle, tying off the end in a knot and sewing mismatched buttons to a piece of scrap fabric was a rainy day activity or to occupy myself on a summer day too hot to do anything but sit under a shade tree.

I’ve always enjoyed the quietude of hand sewing, even when not exactly by myself. I find hand stitchery the perfect road trip complement to PC’s listening to sports radio as he drives. And so it was this past Saturday, settled in the passenger seat, button box atop my lap, I selected replacements to the jacket’s top two buttons.
And here it is four days later, and I’m stuck choosing the third button. I know the final button will be the butterscotch-y yellow, but which of the three to sew as the third. Help!xxea
Tie One On…an apron, of course!
P.S. Just a few days left to enter the Apron Lover’s Giveaway!