I spent this past weekend with my grandmother as she and my family packed all the things that make up her life and move her to a senior living apartment. Since she is a widow and alone, moving to an apartment will relieve her of the responsibility of a house, will give her a safe place to live and she can get care if she needs it. There are fun things to do, new interesting people to socialize with, but she can live independant. By the time I made it to her house most of the packing and moving was finished, but she had a couple of boxes waiting for me to look through. In one of the boxes there was a tin can of buttons that anyone else would have probably just chunked in the trash. To my grandmother the buttons represented some bits and pieces of the memories in her life.
She began by telling me that her mother had started collecting buttons when she was young and that some of the buttons were over a hundred years old. Then she pulled out a green one and explained it came off a suit that my grandfather had bought for her in nineteen seventy something. As we chatted over the buttons, I remember being a little kid and my grandmother would be cooking or sewing. To keep me busy she would get a piece of string and pick out a few big buttons for me to thread on the string. As she ran her fingers through the buttons and pulled out this one and that one to show me, she couldn’t remember where all the buttons came from. She enjoyed looking through them and telling me what she did remember. Then she insisted that I take the tin of buttons home with me.
Of all the other things I could have and did inherit from my grandmother, these buttons are right up there with some of my most prized possessions. They are pieces of moments in lives lived long before mine. They came from great grandmother’s dresses, my father’s and his siblings school clothes, my grandfather’s work coveralls, assorted Sunday dresses and causal clothes that were worn on travel adventures. These buttons represent my family history in a strange way that my grandmother truly values. For that reason alone, I will treasure the buttons and one day pass them along to my granddaughters with some added buttons of my own.