The Button Jar

I awoke in the middle of the night last night (no idea why) and found myself thinking of my Mom’s Button Jar.  It was an old Nalley’s Tang jar, a Pacific Northwest version of Miracle Whip spread. The jar was old when I was a kid, the lid art looked about the mid-40’s, and of course the label was long gone. There was a slot cut in the lid, sort of like a piggy bank would have, but what Mom put through it was buttons, not money; though in a way it was more thrifty than going down to Fonk’s, the local Five and Dime, and purchasing a card of buttons when a recycled (though we of course did not view it in that light back then) one would do.

The jar was a veritable cornucopia of buttons; I remember buttons of all colors and shapes, red ovals, square blue, jewel like and shiny, pearl finished, many  that were just plain white or grey. I wondered at where they had all come from, because I did not remember ever seeing some of them ever attached to shirts, blouses, dresses or slacks. Seems to me like Mom was constantly pulling the jar out, opening it and matching buttons to replace the ones that had gone missing on one of her three men’s shirts.  I realized as I was lying awake, that I did not even know where she stored that jar.  I imagine it was with the old, burnt out 60 watt light bulb she used to darn holes in our socks, (Yup, on $400 a month in a good month, and making a mortgage payment too boot, and groceries for four people, she darned the socks whenever she could) but I never knew where she kept that either, but both would appear when needed.  I don’t recall ever hearing her complain about doing either task, she simply accepted it as a “Mom job” and got right on it.  Do people even bother to darn holes in their socks anymore?  I know I don’t, just get some new ones as the old wear out.  Still have some spare buttons floating around, but not in the profusion of shapes and colors Mom’s button jar did.

Can’t figure out why I thought of that jar last night though, but just perhaps, its because Mom has been gone a bit over a year now, and Dad has been gone for about 30, and it Christmas, and like Scrooge, but for more pleasant reasons, I am reminded of the people and memories of my past.  So I say, as did Tiny Tim, “God Bless Us, Everyone!”, and to all a Merry Christmas, a good night, and just possibly as you dream, that you may have visions of Sugar Plums;  and  Button Jars dancing in your head.


About Bob

Born in 1949 in Colfax, Washington. Attended grades 1-12 there, spent one year at Spokane Falls Community College, then 3 at Eastern Washington. Graduated from there with a degree in Anthropology. Married my wonderful wife in 1970, joined the US Air Force in 1971 and spent 20 years as an aircraft mechanic. Along the way had two great children, a boy then a girl, 4 grand kids and two step grands. After I retired from active duty I finally found myself a public library manager, and now after doing that for 18 years I find myself finally retired for good and all.
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5 Responses to The Button Jar

  1. Deb Gants says:

    I love the vision of sugar plums and button jars!

  2. Ann Dion says:

    I have a wooden darning ball that my mother used. I also have many containers of buttons…..a can of white ones and two or three tins of others from my mother and my mother in law…as a child I would spend hours sifting through those buttons as my mother was mending and sewing. When my daughter was born I actually made her several dresses…..but I have not sewed for years….now that I am retired it is time to bring back all those things I learned to do as a child and teen that I put aside so I could work full time.

    • Bob says:

      Thanks for reading it Ann. I wrote it in hopes it would jar loose some pleasant memories of child hood in some someone who read it. As I said, I really have no idea why the thought of that particular item came to mind, but am thankful it did.

  3. Mary W. says:

    My sister still darns her husbands sock.
    I darn socks– I look at the sock with a hole in it, say “darn sock” and throw it away!
    We found LOTS of buttons while going throught our dad’s house this summer. they must have saved every button they came across. A good friend gave me a necklace made with old buttons. Think I’ll have to make one out of mom’s button jars.

    • Bob says:

      I sometimes wonder if all of the children of the Great Depression did that sort of thing. I have no idea how my Mom collected all those buttons over the years, guess as a shirt or blouse wore out she just cut the buttons off. Remember too, these are the people who clean and refold aluminum foil, aluminum foil containers, etc., in case they need them for something.

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