Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Granny's Buttons

My mother, like many women of her era, seldom disposed of any garment. When it was no longer suitable for wear, she found use for the fabric. Some pieces were used as rags; some might have been stuffed under a door to keep out the cold; some became quilt pieces. She also cut off the buttons and saved them. My wife Jan spent a great deal of time caring for Mother in her final years. She cherishes the small things Mother left, things valuable only to those who loved her. Jan is a quilter, and she especially loved Mother’s collection of buttons.  For Christmas this year, she decided others needed to share this legacy. This is the note she wrote to the women and girls in our immediate family. The button bags were given to Mother’s granddaughters and great-granddaughters.  
“Granny” Button Bags
Granny was very frugal, as were most women of her era.  As garments would wear out, Granny would cut off the buttons before disposing of the garment, saving them for future use.  The buttons on your bag are some that she saved.  She would have thought it very special that they were placed on a bag made just for you, her granddaughter, with special keepsakes inside.  The recipes, in her handwriting, were in her recipe file box along with greeting cards she had received, receipts for various things, dates she purchased a TV (September 23, 1976), obituaries for family and friends and other important documents.    
Such a special lady!
When I looked through those buttons and notes and recipes written in Mother’s distinctive hand, I noticed that she titled her recipes not Key Lime Pie, or Mince Meat Pie, but with the name of the person who gave the recipe to her. Guess she figured the ingredients spoke for themselves. The names brought back sweet memories of some of the most important women in my life. Aunt Hildred, Aunt Jimmie Dee, Pauline Gervers, and many more. I was stunned at the number of truly remarkable women in our rural community—women who helped to raise me. And I do mean remarkable, resilient, kind, loving, strong women.
I wrote and presented eulogies for Mother and Aunt Hildred. Some of the other ladies left instructions for me to be a pallbearer at their funerals. Can there be a greater honor? I made myself a note to write more about them later. A short time before her death, Pauline got a message to me that she wanted one of my books. I was pleased to deliver it. The visit was short, and I don’t think I can properly express how it made me feel. Pauline was the mother of my good friend, not my mother, of course, but as we shared good memories, I felt my mother’s presence. Pauline made me feel loved that day, just like she had when I was a little boy. What a gift.


Doc Turner said...

I feel guilty throwing away old shirts. I have quilts that my Granny made from pieces of shirts I wore as a kid, old house coats, and my sister's, Mom's or Granny's dresses. They are family treasures, like memorial albums in cloth. She saved buttons, too. Good piece!

Loretta Kibler said...

Our mothers were CEO's or business managers of our families before we even knew the terms. They stretched the limited dollars in very creative ways. Thank you for reminding me about the button jar and the quilts which warm our loved ones. We were truly blessed.

Charlotte Hilliard said...

My Mother-in-law, Lottie Hilliard was a button saver. So was my grandmother but she used most of her's before she could save them for long.
A short time ago my daughter asked if she could have her grandmother's string full of buttons because she had played with them for hours when she was a tiny girl. Grandma Hilliard would be most happy to know she had made a memory for one of her granddaughters.

Pat Murray said...

I still have Momma's "button bucket." Actually it was a medium sized tin can that candy came in. It is full of buttons that she saved. I also have quilts she made from the quilt racks that hung from the living room ceiling. I thought they were such a nusuance then. Now I'm so thankful for the memory. I recognize some of the squares in the quilts as her dresses and mine as well when I was a little girl. They are such treasured keepsakes and as the commerical says "priceless."

Jan said...

"Granny's Buttons" brought back many good memories of my grandmothers & my Mother. Both of my grandmothers crocheted and made quilts. I am blessed to have many of the crochet pieces & quilts. They all saved buttons too. Going through my Mother's "stuff", I found little containers of buttons and scraps of material..many of them were from garments that I wore growing up. Those garments were made by my Mother from any fabric available..many from flour sacks. In the 40's & 50's, the flour sacks were cotton fabric, usually with a floral pattern & with Mother's creative mind & a pattern..pretty dresses, blouses & play suits appeared. Since I have a daughter & a granddaughter, I have recently given them the quilts, crochet & we have used the buttons in scrapbooking projects & to make gifts. Along with the quilts & crochet, I gave them written documentations of the stories & memories behind them. Hopefully this will help the memories to be passed on to new generations. Thanks for triggering the memories.

pwhite said...

Many of those buttons represent the millions of stitches my mother made through years of being employed at a sewing factory . She picked up every button on the floor along with all the scraps to make quilts. This is the way she put food on the table. Nothing was ever for her, but always for us. I wish I could tell her how much I appreciate her now that I am older and have been confronted with some of life's hardships. It's unfortunate that we learn and understand all these things much too late .