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The Softer Side

Nancy Willet [ June 2003 ]

Itís late March and the weather hasnít been very conducive to bringing out the spring bonnet, so I spent one Sunday sorting out some closets. One of the things that I had to move was my sewing box. On top of that box sat an old friendÖ my grandmotherís button box, an old fruitcake tin. Over the years the box has changed from being worn out from use, and the contents have grown somewhat. Some of the buttons are still on their original cards when they were purchased years ago, but many are recycled from past articles of clothing.

My fondest memory of this box is it being given to me to look at as a very small child, one cold winter day when mom had errands and she left me with Gram. In those days the old farmhouse kitchen was heated with a wood stove, which had a wonderful spot just big enough for my little chair behind the stove.

I would sit for hours looking at all the wonderful colored buttons in that box, many of them being handed down from my great-grandmother. My grandmother could tell which garment most of the buttons were from. We had many discussions about the clothing and the person who wore that particular fashion with what button. Most of the time there were wonderful stories of balls and special dances. My family may have been from the country, but they were quite the social butterflies, at times attending many functions in and around Franklin County. I can remember watching my grandmother sitting at the sewing machine, creating beautiful dresses and outfits for my mother, her sisters and myself. Gram was an accomplished seamstress, and had even taken a tailoring course in Boston at some point in her busy life. We never lacked play clothes, day dresses or eveningwear when the occasion called for it.

The button box was never very far away, and sometimes I had the dubious honor of picking those special buttons. When Gramís household was broken up, the button box was one of the things that I requested for myself. Iíve kept it all these years, using the buttons for some of the many outfits I made for my daughters when they were growing up. I donít sew much these days, so the box has been kept in the closet.

I suppose button collectors would have a hay day with the buttons in that box, many of them dating to the early 1900s, but I find the memories too great, and I hope to pass the box on to one of my daughters or possibly a granddaughter. Not many people take the time to remove buttons from an old shirt or dress these days, but I can tell you, they are missing out on memories of their own.

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