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?



four gen greats


In her book “Dance of the Dissident Daughter”, Sue Monk Kidd writes about the importance of knowing ones “FOREMOTHERS” and how exploring our foremothers through writing could be instrumental in helping us know our true authentic selves.  For are they not a part of us and we a part of them?

So, in the spirit of my FOREMOTHERS, I offer this:

Here’s to my Maternal Great-Grandmother, Belle Zora Joy-Davis who lived most of her life on a Dairy Ranch in Yava, Arizona  and was the mother of 13 children.  I cannot imagine how hard her life must have been or what she taught her daughters about the big wide world at the turn of the Century.

To my Paternal Great-Grandmother, Emma Mae Craw-Matli, (Grandma Short) who bore 5 sons and a daughter and even though 4 ft 10 in, was renowned for her vigor around the Infamous Matli Ranch in Williamson Valley, just outside Prescott, Arizona.  She ruled with an iron fist for 5 decades and though she lost a daughter, Mary, at age 28, her sons did become “TRUE COWBOYS”  working a cattle ranch, riding bulls and broncs in the oldest Rodeo in the U.S. from the 1920’s to 80’s, when her last son died and the ranch and land was sold to developers.

To my Maternal Grandmother, Beulah Belle Davis-Matli, whom I never got to know, as she died on Christmas Day when I was 2, yet whose life story is nothing short of an inspiration as I have learned some 50 years later.  She was a victim of domestic violence, (from a man she was married to for a brief time, not my Grandpa)….she almost lost her life,  yet she overcame great adversity.

To my Paternal Grandmother, Ferne Dorothy Kapp-Jones, of whom I have fond memories.  She took me on adventures to pick wild raspberries in the Arizona  mountains, made the greatest apple plum cake and told me of her theory of “the Methuselah gene.”

And of course, to my Mother, Gay Yvonne Matli-Jones, who left me with her gift of grace on a snowy day almost 40 yrs to the day of her own Mother’s death…she said a GRAND GOODBYE to me in “Harry Houdini style” and still speaks to me in my dreams….

And I have to add three cousins to this tribute.  Strong women who are connected to me through blood and bone, love and spirit, and whom, if I never got to know, I would never have learned so much about my family story:

To MARY MATLI, daughter of my great uncle Charley and aunt Vonnie Matli.  Mary was instrumental in helping maintain a family legacy and keeping honor and dignity in the MATLI name, as best she could.  From birth, all she knew was the Matli family.  She lived and worked the ranch with her parents as she was an only child with no siblings, and most important as some would say, NO BROTHERS…..yet, she worked hard, endured much adversity and family turmoil and to this day, she is a pillar of strength, goodness, and pure heart.

To SHAMAYA RENMARK-FURMAN, my second cousin and grand-daughter of my maternal grandmothers’ sister VIOLA….we connected on ANCESTRY.com and she provided me with family history from my maternal side (mom’s mom and all those 13 siblings)…..so rich was the history and it changed and transformed me in a positive way, making me feel I had learned more about myself than I could ever have known elsewhere.

And most recently, to MARCIE JONES-HOLTHUS…..my first cousin, daughter of my dad’s brother.  Boy did I learn a lot from her about my dad’s side and she even got me in touch with other family members.  She and I have written to each other, comparing notes about our lives, as I had not seen her since I was four years old….it was a bittersweet reunion that made me feel more intertwined into the tapestry of human beings that I am related to.  I feel grateful that I’ve found “my people” and know so much more about “who I am”……The cool thing is THESE COUSINS ARE STILL ALIVE and I can tune in, show up and connect with them if I so desire.

ON THIS DAY, I HONOR ALL OF MY FOREMOTHERS FROM GENERATIONS PAST AND PRESENT…..for as women, we DO NOT have just ONE MOTHER, we have MANY MOTHERS….young and old, weak and strong, vibrant lights and soft glowing embers……some in the shadows; some in the forefront.  And if we sit still, open our hearts and truly listen, we can hear them speak to us……We hear and feel them in the storytelling, in the ephemera of faded black and white photographs, in the remnants of relics long saved that remind us of long ago and make us feel connected….in haylofts and dusty trails, in the songs of nature at the break of dawn, in the smell of a newborn calf, in the summer monsoons and all the chores that still need to be done…..we feel them.

TO ALL MOTHER’S…..here now and forever gone……I feel your strength, I feel your comfort, and most importantly, I feel your hearts…….m.e.