Despite its shape, we never called it the button basket. It was always the button box.
Growing up with a mother who wasn’t a collector of much of anything, the button box was magical to me.
If the weather was stormy or if I was stuck in bed with some childhood illness, I could spend hours going through the only treasure chest I knew. I would take off the lid, dip my hands into the jumbled contents, and let the buttons spill through my fingers as though they were precious jewels.
After admiring the contents, I would sort the buttons by color, size, and shape. Then I would create designs with the buttons while I imagine why they had landed in the button box. I became an archaeologist digging up my mother’s history by uncovering a small remnant of a favorite coat she no longer wore; the eyes of a stuffed animal from her childhood or the small pearl button from her high school prom dress.
I never wondered why my mom had collected so many buttons. I never even considered the possibility that she had an emotional attachment to the objects. She was a practical woman, and buttons were useful.
Except, most of the buttons in the button box weren’t very useful at all.
There were a few sets of buttons still packaged with price tags that were more reflective of the 1950’s than the 1970’s. Some buttons matched, but most were singularly odd: a red heart, a large black square, a plaid, cloth-covered disc. I couldn’t imagine my mother would sew them onto anything she was making or mending.
On rare occasions, Mom would take out the button box, riffle through it, and pull out what she needed. More often, however, she went to the store and bought the exact buttons she wanted
And yet, she kept that box and saved those buttons because she considered them valuable. Then, she shared her treasure with me because she thought I was valuable too.
And that’s the magic of motherhood– the appreciation that the greatest gifts we pass on to our children aren’t the ones that cost money but instead are the ones that require us to give pieces of ourselves to the next generation.
The magic of childhood is appreciating those gifts.
And the magic of family is appreciating why those gifts are so important.
Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.