Sunday, October 14, 2007

Who's Got a Button?

When I was little I used to like to play in my mother's sewing supplies: Bright ribbons and bobbins of wound thread, bits of fabric and buttons! Over years of sewing and mending, she had accumulated a large pile of buttons, which she stored in a Chock-O-Nuts coffee can which had been covered with contact paper. (We went through a period in the Seventies that included art projects of Contact Paper, tissue-paper mache, and crayons melted on an electric warming tray. I also recall something about shrinking styrofoam cups in the oven to make little leprechaun hats? Painted with green Tempura paint and adorned with a feather?) If I recall correctly, the coffee can of buttons was covered in a shiny gold foil and bright pink design remniscent of flocked wallpaper.

I remember how the plastic lid was slightly transparent, allowing a glimpse into the treasure below. I recall the sound of the buttons rattling in the can, and the distinct sensual pleasure of sinking my fingers deep into the plastic and metal buttons, like beach pebbles or pirate treasure.

She still has the buttons, although I was dissapointed to see that they are stored in a practical rubbermaid tub these days: The coffee can and it's bright contact-papered surface and plastic lid has apparently succumbed to the rust and wear of age.

Yesterday I dug through them, looking for ideas or treasures that can be used to close my in-progress tilted duster. These days the button collection includes less of the fun plastic children's buttons of the 70's, and more of those little envelopes of spare buttons from shirts and skirts, and buttons found in the dryer filter or laundry basket. They are mostly small: white, black, or pearly.

My mother pulled out a tiny daisy button, fingered it lovingly and said, "You had these on a little dress at some point." I remembered.

A few of the ones from my memory:

The daisy, the red smiley face, bright flowers, the white balls, the white one with the red rings... And one pulled off the couch: We all love that couch, and it has since been re-covered with a similar tweedy woven fabric, only this time less bright, less 70's, less cat-scratched, and somehow less familiar.


Mike Lum said...

Wow...I saw the picture, and immediately knew what it was. I can still remember the sound of the buttons in the can, and I also remember the smell of the can. It had a faint trace of the coffee it once stored, with a strong, artificial plastic overtone (probably from the plastic buttons -- duh), but not in an unplesant way.

You should put the buttons back into a coffee can for old times' sake!


Little Red said...

I loved my mum's button can. Although, she didn't use a coffee can, she had an old candy tin. I used to play with that thing for hours, sifting through and organizing the buttons into piles.