Story 3Button 3



I didn’t think I’d ever know the critical dimensions
of a plastic sewing chest this one a Christmas gift
from my sister-in-law and forty years in my closet!
13½” by 8½”by 8½” deep two plastic trays twenty
compartments eleven in the lower tray and nine
in the top tray including a long one for scissors
“Never to be carried with the points towards you.”

I opened the chest to find a darning needle and silk thread
an old art — to mend and make do — not popular in this age
of affluence. There were needles of all sizes: for darning
for hemming, for embroidering, for needle-point along with
straight pins, safety pins, clips and press fasteners,
sequence tape measure, darning mushroom and thimbles,
one Victorian silver and designed.

I seem to remember my mother was proud of this inheritance
although she paid a neighbour to darn my father’s socks.And
there was wool, yarn, cotton, mending threads, No. 5 pearl Sylko
in summer corn yellow and spring grass green. Brand names galore
unfurled the memories - Druma, Excel, Woolcrest, Polyester,
Penn extra strength, Singer mercerized, Talon 100%, Somore 200
yards in white, 474 satinized fast - all cottons. 

But it was the myriads of buttons their shapes, sizes,
their colours or translucency that filled me with fascination
and carried me back to the pavements of Wales where we
as children drew the chalk circle and vied to flick our graded
buttons into the centre to joyfully triumph and win a handful
of new treasure to take home that day perhaps for Mother’s
button box. Everything was valued and nothing discarded. 

Now organized into flat buttons -two holes or four, all colours
displayed, pearlized or painted design, larger buttons in another
compartment for coats and pants, some gold-rimmed, mottled
a reminder of winter and a long brown coat with a faux fur trim
collar.  There  were fancy buttons to stitch from the back with a loop
and wooden buttons, rounded and toggled from an old  camel coat, 
which traveled from Leicester to Canada in my shipping trunk.

Despite the differences I think of the ordinariness of them
that is until you look into the heart of things. Yet no-thing
is extra-ordinary. Like us all things have a purpose each one
a unique form or size—some twinned, or tripled, or even
quadrupled. The more buttons in a set, like more babies in
a bassinette, the more exceptional they are, more valued
in our bargain-basement game. When it was all over and

the chest was back on the shelf, I felt good, relaxed, complete
even joyful and ready for a night’s sleep, work and rest,
day and night, order and confusion, two faces of one coin.
Now I partially understand how I walked through those dynamic
days  of raising girls:  choir, dance, majorettes, baseball, swimming  
school trips, hiking, homework, holidays, parties, piano lessons
and forever flying from one fantastic activity to the next.

It’s the everyday rituals that kept me grounded momentarily
patching up the world, allowing the chaos to regroup in new
and creative ways, keeping certainty in my sewing chest, ordering
words for a date-lined article, then the best words in the best order
for a new poem to add to my journal. Sometimes an afternoon
nap with our baby, work and rest, rest and work and knowing
in my heart that everything counts everything has its place.

Every task is sacred and significant and this universe
will forever unfurl as it should.

© Beryl Baigent 2010



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