The Button and the Girl Who Could Not Sew

A missing button on pair of favorite slacks is such a simple thing to repair.  Yet, the task at hand would open a button tin of memory.

In a long-ago family of five daughters, four were excellent seamstresses.  When it came to a sewing project, there was nothing those girls would not attempt. The more complicated, the better they liked it. However, the middle child had no desire to sew.  At the insistence of her mother, she tried, tried again and each time, failed miserably.

This genetic flaw was a complete mystery to her talented mother and sisters.  They never understood how this could be. Even as adults, they would quietly commiserate to each other, “Kay has never learned to sew.”

Mine was a tightly buttoned family secret.

Just this morning, I stood looking at the slacks with the missing button, from out of nowhere, came the thought, “Call Mama to sew on this button.”

Just as quickly, reality reminded me that Mama was no longer here.  But, the memory of another morning, just like this one began to play in technicolor on a reel in my head.

“Mama, I need you so sew a button on for me this morning.”

“Do you have the button?”

“No, I assumed you could find one in that button tin.”

The bottomless assortment of buttons was always a good bet.

“I can’t believe you don’t have a button, a needle or piece of thread,” says Mama in dismay.

“Everybody ought to have a needle and a spool of thread in their house.”

“Why should I? “It is so easy to walk across the street to your house and have you sew for me,” I explained.

That response pushed her button, figuratively speaking.

Totally exasperated, she exclaimed, “I can’t believe you cannot sew on a button.”

We’d had this conversation more than once.

“You know I can’t sew.”  I offer, which was better than, “I don’t want to.”

“Who’s going sew on a button for you when I’m not here?” she retorted.

“I’ll take it to the laundry.”  I said, laughing.

Now, she’s mortified.

“I would be embarrassed to ask the laundry to sew a button on a piece of clothes for me. How much do they charge for sewing on a button?”

Still laughing, I reply, “I don’t know. You’ve been doing it for me.”

Ever the eternal optimist, Mama bought a small quilted sewing box for me. The flowered box was stocked with several packs of needles, two spools of thread, black and white, a pin cushion, and an assortment of buttons.

This morning, for the first time, I pulled that little sewing box from the top shelf of my closet and opened the lid. Each notion in that beautiful sewing box was still brand new, just as she had placed it there so many years ago.

Right on top lay a simple button that was exactly right.

That old familiar lump forms in my throat every time I think of my mother, and that button held an entire tin of memories.

Despite taking breaths as short as stitches, I could stop neither the smile, nor bittersweet tears that filled my eyes.

Yes, I sewed that button onto my slacks. Because I don’t know how much the laundry will charge, and I really need to wear those slacks today.

Thank you, Mama.