JUST OLD BUTTONS

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?

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A Lifetime of Heart-Shaped Rocks

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I love heart-shaped rocks.  I have collected them my whole life.  From river beds and woodland streams; to hiking trails and mountain summits; to ocean and lake shores and sometimes even digging in my own back yard.  I distinctly remember the very first one I ever found when I was ten years old.  It was in Granite Creek in my childhood home of Prescott, Arizona.  My brothers and I used to love to trench through the creek after the rains when we were a foot deep in run off.  Days later when the creek ran dry, we’d quite often find a multitude of treasures washed down by the current and deposited in between rocks along the creek bed.  Trinkets, toys, coins and colored glass….I even found an old vintage doll once.  But one bright day, while trekking through the muck, I happened to glance down and to my surprise, there in between two large and muddy rocks was the most perfectly symmetrical heart-shaped rock….

 As I picked it up, I imagined that it had some secret power and I was meant to find it that day.  It was a smooth, dark igneous rock with tiny white speckles that I thought of as freckles…..just like mine.  I carried that rock in my pocket for the whole summer and I swear to this day that it brought me a sense of peace when things were not going right.  Some days I would hold it when I was sad or afraid and some days I would just keep rubbing it, like Aladdin and his lamp….hoping it would bring me luck…(or at least three wishes.)  Such is the life of an imaginary ten year old.

My search for heart shaped rocks has continued for over 40 years now.  Whenever I am out in nature, I find myself searching for them.  Sometimes, when I seem to be looking too hard, I usually come up empty.  Yet, sometimes I’ll glance one way just for a moment and then back….and suddenly a rock will just seem to show a little gleam so that I notice it among the many rocks, just waiting for me to pick it up.  By and large, these rocks have more often seemed to find me.

Gradually over four decades, I’ve realized that my search for heart shaped rocks has taken on a sense of the metaphoric.  Like life lessons learned, there were  times when I was looking so hard I’d find nothing, only to look away and then slightly glance beyond my periphery and what I’d been looking for would just show up in my world….usually when I was not paying attention.  Sometimes, I’d find answers in the most peculiar and unexpected places.

Over the years,  I have seen both family and friends struggle, those of us searching so hard to find strength, courage and purpose, yet it all seems to elude us.  It made me think:  Is this the path we must follow to find and understand the simple things in life—when we’re looking so hard that we can’t seem to see the forest through the trees?  Is this the secret to life’s wonderment and surprise?  That constant pull on our hearts for “the true meaning of everything.”

It is that wonderment and surprise that shows up “out the of blue” when I witness my 4 yr old grandson playfully having a “zen like” conversation with his toy alligator or when my 26 yr old daughter tells me she wants to marry someone who “has the ability to express love in the way she has seen her parents do with each other her whole life.”

I don’t know for sure, but I think this is the closest I have ever come to experiencing TRUE LOVE …and maybe if I “do it right and pay it forward”  this true love becomes a generational legacy…

In any case, I will forever be on the look out for my heart-shaped rocks…and sometimes waiting for them to find me…until my dying day….maybe before then though, I can take my grandkids on the search with me…who knows what we’ll find together…

~  Mick E.  ~

 

My Virtual Road Trip

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Okay it’s January and too cold to play outside.  So what did I do today?  I went on a Virtual Road Trip.  Out of total curiosity, I typed in the address of where I lived when I was four years old into Google Maps.  To my surprise, I was given a “street view” of a home I scantily remember, but had significant “neighborhood memories.”  It was in Phoenix, Arizona and all I remember about that time was how hot it was and how I just couldn’t wait to go to the pool with my older siblings every day.  Except for the fact that there was no longer any grass in the front yard, this home looked pretty much the same, right down to the Chinaberry tree in the back yard.  I remember being 4 yrs old and a kid from down the street had pushed me on my tricycle too hard and I crashed into the asphalt, breaking my collar bone.  My dad chased that kid down the street.  There was a confrontation with his parents… My dad was “not so nice” and rightly so.  It was surreal to find that the small two room dwelling that this kid and his family had lived in was still standing and down the street on Google Maps.  I never understood the “politics of poverty” when I was young.  As far as I was concerned, having enough to eat and drink and a warm bed at night was all I needed.  My siblings and I were our own entertainment and teachers….I think I only began to think of “social standing” maybe in second grade….As in, whoever got the job of “feeding the fish” in our classroom.  That was the most important job and you were considered very responsible and liked by the teacher to get that job.

When I realized I could actually take a “VIRTUAL DRIVE” down the streets of any neighborhood in the United States as long as I typed in a specific address as an anchor point, I was “Off and Runnin.”  From there I felt the intense need to go and explore every neighborhood I’d ever lived in my whole life.  Not like I’d lived in a million places on different continents.  Just three states and a handful of homes….Whew!  What a trip!

By and large, with the exception of only one, most neighborhoods hadn’t changed much, even 40+ years later—only the trees were larger.  It was only in Lodi, California, where my family lived from 1966 to 68 that things had changed dramatically.  Our house on the corner of Central and Kettleman was no longer there, replaced by Commercial Real Estate. Gone was our homestead, one of the greatest places we ever lived.  Gone were the five Almond trees, two Walnut trees and a large fig tree on the  east side of the house.  In the front, a grapefruit and orange tree; on the North side of the house, extensive honeysuckle and 2 plum trees.  Across the highway was the most expansive grape vineyard I had ever known, stretching out into infinity (as least in my small childhood brain).  We spent many hours across that “major fair” playing “hide & seek” and all the while eating as many grapes and we could stuff in our mouths….(yes, we did learn the hard way that this would have consequences).  Cherry trees were also in abundance in many yards,  but not for us.  This of course, did not keep us from sneaking into back yards every now and then to grab a few.   It was sad to see that all the grape vineyards were gone, taken over by commercial property.   “Virtualizing” in the neighborhood, I was so happy to find  “BLAKELY PARK” and to see with its infamous Summer Community Pool looked almost untouched from 1968.

Our home on Marina Street in Prescott has become a bed and breakfast andthey expanded the Police Dept. down the street, but most of the homes still look the same.  I still have memories of meeting Steve McQueen on that street when he was shooting scenes for the movie “Junior Bonner.”

The old homestead we rented from our neighbor, Mr Burgess in Eagar, AZ at Burke and 8th St. looks as if it has been neglected for many years.  The apple trees, the well groomed yard, the garden, all gone.  And they erected a hideous looking fence!  I have so many memories of that house were asparagus grew wild along the irrigation ditch out front and I learned to make anything and everything out of apples who which we always had an abundance in the fall.  This is where I lived during all my years in high school, where I lived with my father and four of my siblings after he and my mother separated and we didn’t see him for seven years.  In this house I learned some of the most important of life’s lessons.

What a walk down memory lane!  The homes I lived in, the schools I went to, the route in which I walked home from school….such rich memories came flooding came back to me of a childhood full of adventure and discovery; heartbreak and happenstance.

So I guess what I’m wondering now is “What else is Google or Microsoft or some other behemoth of the Internet going to be able to do for us?”   And shouldn’t we start being a little concerned?  If they can show you where you lived when you were four, is everything we do now being monitored, videotaped, recorded, etc.  Has BIG BROTHER really been “watching us all along?”…..

My Virtual Road Trip was definitely surreal…..you could almost call it sublime (it a cyber sort of way).  I truly did enjoy seeing what things look like now, after all these years.  But I think my memories are much safer in my head where they belong, available when I choose to bring them out……in storytelling with family and friends, in sharing photographs I’ve been taking since I got my first camera at age 12; and definitely with me at the wheel driving the car……                         ~  Mick E  ~