There were three constants in Grandma's house when I was a child. I could always count on Grandpa sitting at the kitchen table with a portable radio, earplug in place, as he listened to the Detroit Tigers baseball games. There were the puffy and sweet homemade sugar cookies filled with a moist raisin center. And then there was the button box ... an old cardboard box filled to the brim with every kind of button imaginable.
I remember seeing my Grandma cutting all the buttons off an old work shirt one afternoon. I asked her why she bothered since she already had so many in her box. Her eyes opened wide in disbelief and she said, "You never know if you might need just this size button." She then held up her most recently orphaned button. After that, I never questioned Grandma about her practical ways. She was just too nice.
Anyway, my brother and I had our own uses for that old box of buttons. Time and again, we'd visit and make our way to Grandma's small store of toys. This meager selection consisted of a partially rusted blue truck similar to the Tonka's of today; a box of Lincoln Logs (which I still can't master well enough to build a suitable log cabin); and several thick books filled with cherished stories about King Midas, The Water Babies, and a lonely little girl visiting a farm.
What fun we had making all kinds of different designs and sometimes fighting over a particularly unusual button. I can't remember ever going to my Grandparents' house without spending time stringing and re-stringing buttons. It seemed a shame to spill them all out once our string was full, but then again Grandma would remind us that the buttons weren't going anywhere and would be waiting for us the next time around.
Over fifteen years have passed since Grandma died, but every day I have a reminder of the simple joys of childhood inspired by this loving and creative lady. On my kitchen counter, in a glass jar, lovingly sits the same buttons waiting for some child to get bored and start stringing.