Friday, January 30, 2015
4/52: Collection and Friday Flashback
This is my grandmother's button box. She kept it in her bedroom. I remember taking it out of its place on the shelf, sitting on the floor, and spending many minutes, perhaps hours, enjoying the sensation of sifting through the buttons with my hands and letting them fall between the cracks in my fingers. I would sort through them, picking out those that were more interesting: glittery, flower-shaped, leather-tooled, wooden-carved. Some, I tried to rig onto bobby pins and or attached to strings so that I could accessorize the outfits of the equally antique dolls she had.
When my grandmother passed away, I went with my mother to help decide what should be done regarding her belongings. There were a number of pieces I wanted to keep so they would stay in the family: cedar chests, the cherry wood bedroom set complete with vanity, the barrister bookcases, and the family photographs. However, there was one thing I wanted just for myself: her button box. My memories of visiting my grandmother were inexorably linked to that humble, practical item.
The button box was stored for many years in my parents' basement along with a number of my childhood artifacts. Due to a great cleansing and moving, I was re-gifted all of these long-forgotten items a little over a year ago. When I cracked open the button box after not seeing it's contents for a decade or more, I was greeted by friends. There were so many buttons that I remembered with such fondness. It was a joy to rediscover them again.
The box symbolizes my grandmother's personality. My grandmother reached adulthood just as the depression was starting. (She graduated college in 1929). The saying, "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was emblazoned on every action she performed. Frugality and thrift weren't "good ideas" but a way of life. The box is a gentle reminder to me to choose a different path: Mending vs. tossing. Creating vs. buying. Simplifying vs. cluttering.