Earlier this month, I wrote about my sister and her role as “keeper of traditions” in our family. She is also the “keeper of the button box.”

My mother was a teenager during the Great Depression. Her mother and grandmother were widows, and together, they raised three children. It was a difficult time. My great grandmother took in laundry to help earn money. She stayed home and ran the household while my grandmother worked at a department store.

Many families have remnants of behaviors learned during the Depression. Saving buttons was a practice that stayed with my mom. She must have snipped off the buttons of every worn out dress shirt my dad ever had. There are hundreds of them in the box. She also strung buttons on thread to keep sets together. It was an act of love and care.

My sister said that she felt a huge responsibility when my mother entrusted her with the button box. She has kept it well. When I needed a button for a baby sweater I made, I went “shopping” in Mom’s button box. It’s always fun to rummage through the box and remember the past. Recently, I found a card in the box that was called “Movie Buttons.” A piece of the past.

The button box makes me wonder what lasting behaviors will run in families for generations to come from those of us who are alive in the time of COVID19.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Diane Anderson (newtreemom)
    Mar 29, 2020 @ 22:11:04

    My mom was a depression baby. She had red flannel diapers. There was a button box at our house, too. It was an old cardboard cigar box. Thanks for the memories.


  2. notthewholestory
    Mar 29, 2020 @ 22:11:42

    Oh, this brought back sweet memories. My mom had a sewing room when I was a child, and I spent hours in there, on the floor, while she sewed. Most of the time, I was sorting and playing with the myriad of buttons she kept in several clear plastic bouillon canisters. Later, when I, too, learned to sew, those buttons were where I went to find the finishing touches to the outfits I sewed. I keep a little box of buttons now, too, just in case. Recently, the little girl downstairs came and knocked on my door. She and her mom were in the middle of a craft project and needed some buttons! I knew exactly where to find mine. I love this post. It took me down such a sweet memory lane!


  3. Lainie Levin
    Mar 29, 2020 @ 22:31:08

    It does make me wonder, as well.

    My parents were shaped by the Depression and World War II, so this slice was a wonderful way for me to think about them as well.

    Thank you!


  4. mschiubookawrites
    Mar 29, 2020 @ 23:00:07

    My grandmother has a button box as well. I love how you shared your family tradition in this slice, the passing down of the button box, and end with a lingering question.


  5. Debbie Lynn
    Mar 30, 2020 @ 07:31:34

    I never thought of the button collection stemming from a time period when life was hard, but I too, inherited a button collection and go to it on occasion for buttons. Though, usually there are not enough of one kind for a project. When I go shopping for new buttons I’m always perplexed as to why buttons are SO expensive! Love this memory! 🙂


  6. sallydonnelly11
    Mar 30, 2020 @ 21:02:02

    I am so glad you added photos to this historical piece of writing. And what a lovely ending. You ask us, the reader to think about our current times, being connected to the time of your mother – the Great Depression. I’m not sure the answer. I just know that so much time at home is being spent, cooking and playing games and zooming. Time will tell. Thanks for getting me to ponder.


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