The button jar

Posted on January 2, 2010


One of the day’s errands involved returning many overdue books to the library in Central Lake.  A bonus was discovering the current showcase exhibit: a button collection.  Buttons in jars, buttons in a box that had held lavendar soaps, buttons sewed onto patchwork angel wings . . . I was completely captivated.

My mother kept a button jar. Many button jars, along with boxes and baskets and tins. She was a creative fabric artist and costume designer, though she didn’t think of herself that way. Buttons were her inspiration.

Once she found a pale bronze button with a stylized leaf design. Just one. Then she found a linen fabric in a swirling green and bronze leaf pattern, a length of soft green silk lining, another in shimmering bronze rayon. She made me a sheath – remember the sheath dress? – and a coordinating coat that closed with a single tab, buttoned with that leaf button. It was the most sophisticated ensemble I ever wore, and I loved it.

If I still had it, and the slender figure that went with it, I could wear it today. Well, OK, not in Torch Lake Township, where I have an entirely different kind of life, but in the city. It astonishes me to remember that I ever wore such things, but I did. I wore it to my very first opera: Leontyne Price in Aida at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. A memorable evening all the way around.

A simple thing, a button jar. Filled with stories.