The Magical Button Box

When I was little, if I got sick, there were certain things I knew would occur. I’d be put to bed with clean sheets and plumped pillows (not that my Momma didn’t ever change the sheets!). Most likely, I would be subjected to the noxious smell of Vick’s Vaporub. Momma would serve me my meals in bed, and they invariably involved Campbell’s tomato soup with tiny oyster crackers floating in the bowl (instead of just plain saltine crackers). I could drink all the ginger ale I could hold. And, my Momma would bring out the “button box.” It was filled with “magic!”

The box of buttons was my Momma’s secret weapon for dealing with a cranky, sick child. She kept it carefully guarded in her arsenal, unless we were so sick we had to go to bed. We never got to touch it otherwise. For some reason, unknown to me at this stage of my life, we always clamored for it. I’m plumb embarrassed to tell you this, but on more than one occasion, I pretended to be sick just so I could sift through the buttons.

I could not tell you why my Momma had a button box. She didn’t sew (in fact, I have no clear recollection of her ever even sewing a button on a shirt). Maybe she kept one because her momma had one … and Grandmommy’s momma had one before that.

In days long ago, folks didn’t just take clothing down to the donation box when they no longer needed the items. When a garment had outlived its usefulness, the buttons were removed and stored, the stitches were ripped out of the seams, and the good parts of the fabric were carefully ironed and folded. That fabric was put away to await the “second coming,” when it would be incorporated into a new garment.

Momma had the good sense not to save fabric she would never use, but she darned sure saved the buttons. Maybe she kept those buttons, because she knew they were magic. At least, they certainly soothed the savage beast in us.

There were more than a thousand buttons in that round, red Christmas tin with the faded winter scene on the lid. The buttons were amazing; when we spilled them onto the bedspread, it looked like a rainbow had fallen to earth. To be sure, the box had its fair share of plain buttons from every shirt my father ever wore. But, there were buttons of every color, size, and shape you can name.

I counted buttons; I sorted buttons; I made swirling patterns on the sheets by lining up the buttons; I even practiced my addition, subtraction, and multiplication skills with those buttons. Once that button box was opened, I spent blissful hours sifting through them and I never once complained, or argued with Momma, or whined about my illness. Immersed in those brightly colored bits of ceramic and plastic, I forgot all the cares of the world.

I was thinking about Momma’s button box, as I sifted through the growing pile of “lucky charms” that I’m collecting to put into medicine bags for the “Good Medicine Project.” We will give them to children at Camp Sanguinity next summer. Those kids fight cancer (either as patients or as siblings of a cancer patient). I’m hoping they get the same enjoyment from sifting through the charms as I got from the button box. Maybe those charms will help to soothe them.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a button box would solve all our problems today? Maybe we should box up some pretty buttons and send them to government leaders in Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Korea, and China, and any other country we can name. Maybe those fellows would get so involved in making pretty patterns with those buttons that they would forget about arguing and fighting?

Nah. It wouldn’t work. But, wouldn’t it be nice if we could find something as simple as a magical box of buttons?

I bet your Momma had a special treat for you when you were sick. Maybe you had one for your own kids. Tell me about it if you feel the urge. While you are having urges, I hope you feel the desire to send some charms for the Good Medicine Project!

  4 comments for “The Magical Button Box

  1. September 4, 2008 at 10:12 am

    My grandmother (my father’s mother, not the one I’ve blogged about) was a seamstress and as a child I used to spend hours playing with her button box. I’d forgotten all about it until just now.

    At my own house, a special when you’re sick treat was getting to eat cereal for dinner :).

    Robins last blog post..TT – My Life in 13 Parts

    And, didn’t you just love the button box? Of course you did. At my house, eating cereal for dinner is not a treat…ahem. Of course, YOU are a good cook and I’m not. There you go.

  2. Sheila Atwood
    September 4, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    😀 My mother had several button jars. They were color coded.
    We did have special treats when we were sick. My favorite was baked custard. I loved the thick crust on the sides and would save them to eat last. This was a tradition I did with my own children.

    😆 Either your mother could really sew, or she was just organized! Baked custard…mmmm

  3. September 4, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    My Mama had a button box, too! Funnily enough, I don’t remember her ever using them either. Maybe it’s a Mama thing, ’cause now I have her button box. 😆

    Although, I let my little one play with it at will. We’ve even used some of the buttons in craft projects. I figure, what’s the use in having a box of pretties if you never show them off, eh?

    And we got jell-o water when we were sick. It’s just jell-o, but instead of adding the hot water and then the cold, you do ALL hot water, so it doesn’t gel as fast. 😆

    Ambers last blog post..Fall Is In The Air.

    I’ve never had “jell-o water.” I can imagine a little kid liking it, though. You actually use the buttons? That’s almost sacrilege 😆

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