All Buttoned Up

Button drawer There’s something pleasing about the button–simple yet functional, often bright, sometimes shiny, and usually a circle–sun, moon, wheel, life. So primal, and yet, somehow divine, and my mother had ‘em by the dozens! Before I wax on, a disclaimer—two entries in and already I’ve moseyed out of my mother’s attic (it’s cold up there!). Down the splintered stairs and up the drafty hallway I go to the sewing room, which began its life as my bedroom. Question—does it count as a bedroom if there’s no bathroom within ten yards? The baby of the family, I was two when my parents built their dream home, so naturally I got the bedroom that wasn’t. I figured it was normal to scuttle through a closet and hopscotch between highboy and hope chest to get to the potty. The house that has fallen silent now was crowded and chaotic then, four brothers, two of them teenagers, sharing a pair of bedrooms and a Jack ‘n Jill bath, plus my sister, who at eighteen wasn’t keen on the idea of sharing much of anything. Who could blame her? She’d survived childhood (including semi-annual, seven-hour station-wagon rides to Florida) while sharing her space with four rowdy boys. She deserved a bed and bath of her own and what did I care? I loved that only that narrow closet jammed with shoes and worn bathrobes and musty boxes marked, For the Scrapbook! separated me from my parents.

Button tinsSo I lived in the sewing room (even then it begged for a Singer and a good sharp pair of shears) and I shared my parents’ bath until I began to teeter at the brink of adolescence. Then, blessedly, someone declared it was high time I stopped barging in on dad when he was shaving so I could brush on a little rouge. Which brings us back to buttons. Or does it. I’ve moseyed again, this time way off the subject. But my mother did collect buttons, which made some sense because she was, one, a woman who disliked being caught off guard, and two, a seamstress. I suppose you’d call her an amateur seamstress. She didn’t sew for money, though she could have. She was good enough, but then, she was good enough at a lot of things to have gone pro but never had the courage. I wish she had. Late in her life, I think she wished she had, too.


Still, Mom did beautiful work with her needle and thread, and the Chanel suits and St. Johns’ knits she stitched up came to life thanks to those rhinestone buttons up the front or the pop of that mandarin knot at the neck. So what if her eyes went before she could use up the tins full (all carefully ordered, as shown, and color-coded). Wasn’t that better than coming to the end of a long day’s work to find you were out of emerald green studs?

Button up tight everybody, and enjoy the weekend. I’ll be sorting spools of thread while the Seahawks “take the air out of” the Patriots’ sails.

Joe wearing one of her homespun dresses
Mom sporting one of her homespun outfits. Miss you, lovely lady.

4 thoughts on “All Buttoned Up

  1. Very nicely written, Martha. With aging parents, my sisters and I know that the day of going through the attic will soon come. And we dread it. I’ll be interested in how your labors go. Most of all your reflections on your mother’s life. I wonder how our children will judge us when they go through our attics one day?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re so right, Bill. As menacing a place as the attic is, once you separate out the chaff (and most of it is just that), what’s left is both revealing and poignant.


  3. Martha–I am really enjoying these posts and learning more about your mother as a person, as in my eyes she was simply a mom. Thank you for sharing them. I remember us playing in your parents’ bathroom with you when we were very little. It’s the first place I ever remember using a bathroom scale.

    Liked by 1 person

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