Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Button, button who's got the button?

For my fellow Monday-nighters, here is my button story:

For my non Monday night readers, the prompt was simple. Choose a button from a glass jar full of buttons and write as the button, to the button, or about the button. This is the result.


Mama wore her red sweater with the gold-brass buttons in the winter when it was cold. She would cozy up to the fire in her creaky wooden rocking chair and sit, silently stabbing the canvas with her needle, creating patterns in basketweave and longstitch that never saw the light of day. The gold buttons glinted in the firelight and threw dazzling patterns on the opposite wall. She would finger them occasionally, while waiting for my older brother Jody and father to return from the fields, long past dark, when the thresher had been put away and the hay neatly stacked into bales, ready for selling.

We buried Mama in that red sweater with the golden brass buttons that glittered in the lamplight. When God took her to her heavenly home, Daddy said that when she got there she would be cold. Mama was always cold. So he shrouded her chest in worn, off-red wool, kissed her temple and brushed the steely locks from her forehead one last time. Then he went out to milk the cows, while Jody dragged wood in from the lean-to. It was my job to keep Mama company until the preacher arrived. I stared and stared that those golden brass buttons like they knew the answer.

The next day, I took Mama’s needlepoint and hurled it into the river way down by the Halpern’s place. I wasn’t going to sit by the fire and stab at a canvas until I got old enough to be a mama myself. I wasn’t going to cook and clean for the menfolk the way they wanted me to. I was getting out of Jethro’s Island.

Before the closed the lid on the coffin and hauled Mama away, I asked to tell her one last secret. Daddy looked at me with flint in his eyes.

“Go on, then,” he said, pushing me forward.

I had concealed Mama’s sewing scissors in the palm of my hand. I quickly slunk to the coffin, bent down as if I was telling her my deepest, darkest secret, and snipped a button from her sweater. Then I blew her a kiss as she did me every night since I could remember.

I kept that button on a golden thread, first around my neck, and later on my wrist, in my pocket or under my pillow. It was with me when Dickie took away my childhood. It kept me company on the long road out of Jethro’s Island, and it stayed in my hand when I went to collect my M.D. at the end of last year.

Now Mama’s button is on my own red sweater. Unlike hers, mine isn’t a shroud. It’s a shoulder of opportunity, a link to my past and a reminder of the woman I could have become.

1 comment:

trAcy said...

: )

i will never be able to think of "write a button story" without visualizing one of the older kids in my gradeschool performing for the speech competition a dramatization of "the button," the story of this man in solitary confinement who slowly goes crazy in the dark. he's bored, of course, and who knows how long he's been in or why anymore, but he delights one day in finding this button on the ground. it keeps him busy, gives him something to focus on. he tosses it in the air over and over and likes to feel it falling back into his palm. one time when he throws it up, it doesn't come back down. that's what drives him crazy. i don't know why he doesn't jump around and figure it out, but the story ends with the guards or whoever finding him dead probably, and in the light of day they can see this button stuck up in some spiderweb. ridiculous, huh? my, but it made an impression on me.