The tallest glass jar I’d ever seen
sat near a window in Gran’s sewing room.
filled with buttons from family old clothes…
brass buttons, glass buttons, lace buttons;
buttons guised as roses, apples and angels.

Gran would often put buttons in tiny
tin cans with palm trees on their sides.
Holding them above her head, she’d spin around
the kitchen, shaking the cans like spanish castinets,
The best times came when she’d select her
favorite button and tell its story.

Tiny white lace ones from the sleeve of her
wedding gown reminded her of the secret ceremony…
secret because she was Irish Catholic;
her bridegroom, English Protestant.
In the old country, they were forbidden to marry.

When she held the shiny brass button from
Grandpop’s blue striped overalls, she recalled
riding the famous Blue Comet while Grandpa
engineered it up and down Jersey tracks.

Tears welled when she touched
the white linen button from her sister Kate’s
first communion dress, made from the family’s
Sunday dinner tablecloth.

Gran was quiet when she clutched the army button
from her young brother Tom’s World War I uniform.
He didn’t come home.

When Gran turned 75 she could still remember
stories about her beautiful buttons but
often forgot her name, where she lived,
when she was born or who was president.
Momma said Gran was mental so she admitted her
to the state hospital… a place neighbors whispered about,
fearing it would someday be their fate too.

I went to visit her, found her tied to a rocking chair
singing hymns about Blessed Virgin Mary..
She grabbed my hand, pleading for her button jar
After searching her sewing room, the attic, the cellar,
I asked momma if she knew where it was.

Momma answered,
I got rid of it.  Sold it for pennies.
I should have thrown it away.
That old thing wasn’t worth anything.

Gloria Healy


One Response

  1. A story for every button, a memory of every story – this poem invokes a novel

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