I have a collection of buttons. The old fruitcake can that holds them is probably from the 50’s by its look. It belonged to my mother and I guess I “inherited” it 13 years ago along with the few things she left behind after her death…
My mother, like many women from her generation, collected buttons from worn out pieces of clothing. With a family of seven children, she was creative about keeping us “clothed and clean.” That meant mending socks, patching jeans, sewing rips and harvesting buttons from clothes no longer useful.
I could have easily thrown out those buttons when I found them at the bottom of a box I cleaned from her closet some six months after her death…(yes, it took me that long). But something inside told me to hold on to them. I admit it was hard for me to let go of things my mother collected. As if holding onto these “things” would keep her spirit close to me somehow.
I am so very sure I’m not the first woman to hold on to her mother’s artifacts. I guess it is natural that we want to hold on to something our mother loved and admired… like her energy is still with us…and sometimes, even the spirit of her mother, before.
Today, I went looking in my storage and took out that can of buttons, thinking I could use some of them in my attempt to create some cool pumpkin faces for my grand-kids at Halloween. I did use some of the buttons and felt good about “my creations.”
Later, in the quiet of my office, I sat down and spread out all of those buttons. I went through and sorted them by color, size, shape, etc. Little did I know that I would soon have an epiphany of sorts. The déjà vu that hit me was so unexpected….I remember thinking “okay, its one thing collecting buttons, but did my mother actually keep and collect buttons from 40+ years before?
Examining the buttons, I began to see bits and pieces from my childhood…here were buttons from my favorite shirt from 3rd grade, then buttons from a coat from 5th grade I had long forgotten…. I began to study these buttons more intensely and with my mind’s eye, remembered clothing my siblings had worn…not the basic buttons, but those that stood out, like buttons from a jacket my brother wore until it was tattered beyond belief, those “psychedelic” buttons on a “hippie vest” my sister, Wava had and even the cool buttons from my youngest brothers’ bomber jacket. I began to believe that maybe these buttons were a way for my mother to hold on to a piece of history…..her childrens’ history…..just as in the old days when they kept pieces of fabric and made “family tree” quilts.
My mother never made quilts, but she did keep the buttons. And that day, I got a little “flash back” to my childhood and a little more respect for my mom. It made me wonder: what will my children save and collect from our lives together?