The Old Button Tin

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My mother’s old button tin (a reused, 1950’s Christmas cookie tin), a box of threads and some old “Bondex” iron-on material from the 1960’s

When I was little, I was always fascinated, watching my mother sew. She could hand sew or sew on the machine.

To me it was magic. I learned in later years, that it was necessity. With seven kids to raise on just my father’s salary (at least until I was a teen and my mother started a second career in the insurance industry and worked her way up to a CPCU license), it was more economical for my mother to craft many of our clothes and other items by hand than it was to buy them ready-made.

My sisters and I had bedspreads with matching curtains, all sewn by my mother (I can still remember that they had a white background with colorful yellow, purple, and pink flowers, and they were all edged in a some kind of matching yellow fringe). 🙂 We also had lots of clothing – dresses, jumpers, skirts and the like – all created by her nimble hands. I remember a little grumbling by some of my sisters because hand-made clothing wasn’t as “cool” as store-bought, but everyone cooperated. That’s what family was all about – pitching in and working together – and we were taught that valuable skill from the cradle.

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“Colonial” dresses and bonnets my mother sewed for us. I’m in the middle front, at approximately 4 years old, and our old Volkswagon van – the only vehicle available at the time that was large enough to hold the family – is in the background

I’ll have to do another post sometime on the wonderful costumes she crafted, not only for Halloween, but also for me and the two sisters closest in age to me, since we had formed a competitive tap-dancing team in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s called “The Dancing Reeds”. The picture above, though, is of all the dresses with matching bonnets she created for every one of us (including her, though she’s not pictured here…one of the “Fresh Air Fund” sisters who came to live with us every summer is, however) for our community’s “Colonial Days” in 1970. There was a big parade, and we got to march in it. 🙂

Those were simpler times in many ways, and sometimes I still yearn for those days, as busy and crazy as our small household could become, with anywhere from nine to fifteen people all there at the same time (and only two “kids” bedrooms and one bathroom for the whole household). It’s one of the reasons I wrote Moose Tracks on the Road To Heaven, a novel loosely based on some of those times and my memories of the feelings, funny and poignant moments, and gamut of emotional textures of those years (all interspersed with the main story, which is set in “modern” day and is also fictionalized, LOL).

It was a life of sharing and squabbling, joking around, and loving, and when I look at my mother’s old button tin, which she gave me several years ago to use in my own household, I am reminded of those wonderful times all over again.

Anyone else have an old button tin they cherish?

4 thoughts on “The Old Button Tin

    • I do have so many great memories…and I’ve always been very proud of my mother for earning her CPCU. At the time, she was the only woman in the entire company to achieve that designation, and she even earned it before her boss did (which got him some censure from the president of the company!) 🙂

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  1. Sandi Christman says:

    Mary – I too have an old button tin (yes, an ex cookie tin) from my great grandmother, and every time that I see it in my sewing room I am reminded of the women in my family who sewed both out of necessity and for enjoyment. I miss having those woman as a part of my life now, but they will always be connected to me when I am embroidering, quilting or knitting!

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    • Isn’t it wonderful, how these old, homey objects can evoke such beautiful, visceral memories and feelings? I wish I could quilt…maybe I will learn when I retire. But I do feel the connection when I hand sew or when I’m cooking/baking. A rich and comforting legacy and connection. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

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