Friday, May 4, 2012

Cute as a button jar

My mom had a button jar. I remember being mesmerized by it as a child. Did she buy it or did she create it herself? Not sure, but I'm going to wager she got it at a garage sale, because I don't really remember her doing a whole lot of sewing (she may feel free to dispute this—if she knows how to make a comment on a blog...). I bought this button jar at a garage sale because I knew my kids would dig it, and they did. I also knew they would want to open it and dump out the contents, and they did want to, but I wouldn't let them. Is that so wrong? I think spilling the contents kinda spoils the beauty of the button jar, which is holding it in your hands and turning it around and around, not knowing how many buttons are in there and what other treasure might lie within, and seeing something different every time you look.

Of course that also means the button jar serves no practical purpose—i.e., as a repository of stray buttons that could be reused—but would it surprise you to know that I don't care? A button jar is a reliquary of sorts, evidence of a life lived. Sifting through the buttons amassed over years, you bear witness to fashion changing, size and circumstances changing, a family growing and contracting. Unless it's one of those faux button jars you see at the antique malls, where a dealer's dumped an assortment of buttons into any old mason jar and slapped a $25 price tag on it. Don't ask me why those inauthentic button jars offend me, but they do. Don't ask me how a person comes to have so many things to say about button jars because until this moment I didn't know I had it in me. I also realize this all flies in the face of my usual stance against purchasing someone else's collection outright instead of doing the hard, crazy-making work of collecting yourself (see sand dollars). I try to be consistent, but often I fail.

Back to button jars. There's something to be said for the practical applications of the button jar, and I'm not sure why I haven't started my own. All my new clothes seem to come with a little envelope containing a spare button or two, and I just throw those little envelopes in different random drawers and thus have never had a proper replacement button at the ready when I've needed one.

Officially on my to-do list: Start a button jar that can be sold at my future estate sale.

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