While browsing through Facebook this morning, I came across a photo of an old button box. This brought to mind a chapter from my Valley Memories book. I’d like to share that chapter here with you. It originally appeared as a news column in 2008. If you enjoy this trip down memory lane, be sure to check out others like it in Valley Memories.
Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?
As I was doing the laundry recently I noticed that there was a button missing from a favorite blouse. It wasn’t just any button; it was flat, had three holes, and was a shade of blue-green that would be difficult to match. That meant removing a button from the bottom of the row and sewing it in place of the lost button. That got me to thinking about the button boxes that our mothers or grandmothers kept in their sewing room (another long lost treasury of great things).
The button box itself was a treasure chest of wondrous things for us when we were children. Since most of us wore hand-me-downs our clothes were worn to their fullest. When an item was no longer serviceable our moms would take a pair of scissors, carefully remove the external decorations like braid or trim, cut out the zipper if there was one, and remove the buttons. I remember feeling so proud the first time my mom let me take the scissors and cut off the buttons from one of my dad’s work shirts. It wasn’t a responsibility to be taken lightly.
The button box was usually a large round tin container with a lid – the kind that came filled with holiday cookies or caramel corn. The lid would have a picturesque scene on it with a bit of advertising. When the original contents were gone, the tin would be filled with all of the buttons from the various kinds of clothing that had gone on to serve as quilt pieces or ultimately rags for cleaning.
As a child I was fascinated by the buttons in the box. I would spend hours searching for two matching buttons; sometimes I would sort the buttons into piles of different colors. Occasionally mom would let me help her by asking me to find a specific style or color of button for some mending she was doing. As I grew older, I would enjoy just sifting through the button box and finding buttons from garments I no longer owned. Each button had meaning for me as they brought to mind memories, both happy and sad.
It’s rare to find a button box like that these days. Many of our clothes are donated to charity long before they outgrow their usefulness. Today’s homemakers are more organized and keep those buttons in see-through plastic containers where they are sorted by size and color. Folks who like doing crafts recycle their buttons into all sorts of things: tissue boxes, jewelry, artwork, adornment for headbands, wreaths, I’ve even see Christmas tree garland fashioned from red buttons and red string!
In today’s world, we can buy a bag of buttons for $5.99 or if we want something special a small card with two or three buttons for upwards of $3.99. But those buttons have no history. They may be pretty but will they bring to mind the fun we had when we wore the garments they adorned?
I miss the days of button boxes. I know it may sound silly but I’m thinking of starting a button box. Maybe it will bring me some comfort in my later years.