Family Stories: Button… Button, Who’s Got The Button

The contents of my favorite button jar… mostly all coming from my mother. I can only assume she cut them off the many clothes that came her way wile working at the senior center. Those tooth looking buttons look like they belong on Fred Flintstones saber tooth outfit he always wore … if only I knew where they really came from!

Every time I look at my button jars, I’m reminded of my mother telling me how she played the game… “button, button, who’s got the button” as a child growing up in the 30’s and 40’s. It was a game where they sat around in a circle and passed around a button held in their hand… you passed it into the persons hand next to you, while not letting anyone know if it was really passed or not; she enjoyed playing with her mother’s box of buttons and thimbles… items used as toys. Mama remembers how actual toys were far and few in between… children learned to make their own fun.

While visiting mom one year on vacation, we scouted out the old log cabin where she was born… as we walked to the back, she pointed up the stairs toward the loft and told us about all the many thimbles, of her mothers that she and her brother, Leroy, lost in between the rafters. Mama really wanted to venture up those stairs that day… but as we were already trespassing, I persuaded her strongly that it wasn’t the best of ideas. If you knew my mother… you’ll know that almost nothing ever stopped her from doing something she really wanted to… but her grandson was with us on that day… thankfully she listened more to him than me, which was often the case!

Cabin originally had a porch on front… as mama remembers.

Mama really wanted to climb those stairs again… looking for thimbles and buttons!

On every trip home to visit mom… the night before leaving, my suitcase suddenly became “pack my suitcase with“… everything she thought I should take home. I’ll have to write a post on all my excursions returning home. Buttons were always an easy thing to pack… as they fit almost anywhere! On one trip a huge cast-iron frying pan even went into that suitcase… and arrived home safe and sound!

Mama volunteered at the senior center probably over 30 plus years, and working in the “clothes closet” for as long as I can remember. The clothes closet was their thrift store… and it was her favorite place, as she loved looking through all the many things donated there… besides just clothes. Whenever I mentioned if she’d seen something… she’d say… “just wait long enough, it’ll show up there eventually“… and for the most part, she was always right.

What did show up there often, were buttons… as buttons are on everything. On one trip home, she pulled out these exquisite vintage beaded buttons… she was so proud of them, telling me that they had cut them off a few old coats that weren’t wearable any longer, but the buttons were so beautiful, that she saved them for me… knowing I’d love them… and she was right!

I’ve never seen beaded buttons like this… and I can only imagine what type of coat they were cut off of… and wondering what year they would have been fashionable… 30’s, 40’s, 50’s? They were from someone’s loved coat!

The saving of buttons is probably about as old as saving fabric. Mama remembered her mother’s fabric basket… they were her treasures! When grandmama pieced quilts, that’s where she worked from… a pile of saved flour sacks, old clothes… anything that could be reused. In those days, going to a fabric store to buy “new” fabric was not something often afforded. My grandmother was an avid quilter… not a sewer of clothes… but she treasured her fabrics, no matter where they came from. She also saved buttons… as who didn’t have a tin of buttons… never know when you’ll need one. My mother and grandmother came from a generation of savers… they were the true green and frugal generation. Even granddaddy was a saver, but of different items… his treasures would have been behind the barn and consisted of wood, iron, nails and probably extra barb wire.

My mother learned to sew and embroidery by sitting alongside her mother in the evenings… grandmama only sewed by hand, never wanting to use one of those new-fangled pedal sewing machine. After my mother began sewing, her father bought her a used pedal machine… and she began making her own clothes, as well as her own patterns… by tracing around her own clothes; Grandmama’s button box soon became a treasure trove.

While my grandmother didn’t really mind mama using her buttons, she did mind her taking fabric from her treasured stash… and on one afternoon while her mother was working in the field, mama discovered yards of new fabric… and sewed all afternoon… so proud of all she had made for her bedroom… consisting of new curtains and other coverings for her room. Grandmama took one look and left the room crying. Mama didn’t quite understand why her mother had gotten upset until later on, but granddaddy smoothed the episode over later by buying grandmama more new fabric. In those times, buying fabric for everything you wanted to make wasn’t the norm… most things were made by re-using what you already had. Even mama’s underwear was made from flour sacks… something she always complained about and wishing for store bought ones… that weren’t scratchy!

I’m also a saver of buttons… and have to admit that I even save those extra buttons that come with coats or shirts… always hard to throw a good button away. But the funny thing is… that whenever I need buttons for a craft project, I never seem to have the right buttons needed… so off to Joanne’s I go. The one person who likes to “raid” my button jar is my granddaughter McKinley. She enjoys dumping it out to see which ones she might scurry away with, but she knows the jars that she can only look at, although I might need to begin patting her down! She and Grace remember my rules of not cutting paper with the fabric scissors, and if they aren’t sure which scissors is ok to use… they ask. I’ve trained them well on the do’s and don’t of scissor cutting for paper and fabric.

I keep my button jar under mama’s watchful eye… they make me smile!

My husband often says… “your mother had a good eye for things,” and yes she did, as we’ve brought home many of her treasured finds over the years… and she’s often remembered when we use them!

Thank You Mama for always thinking of us!


If you’d like to play “Button, Button, who’s Got the Button”… keep reading…

The “button” game is a game in which players form a circle, holding their hands closed with palms together. The person (leader) who is “it”, places a button inside their closed hands, and goes around the circle to each player… holding their closed hands over every player’s almost closed hands… and in one of the players hands, they drop the button, but still continuing around to everyone. No one knows where the button is except for the giver and receiver. The “leader” then says, “Button, button, who’s got the button“, and each child in the circle is asked to guess. Whomever guesses correctly, then becomes the new “leader” and continues the game. (Any small object can be used in place of a button… mama remembers they often used her mother’s thimbles)


If you’d like to read more family stories, click HERE.

© 2021, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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6 Responses to Family Stories: Button… Button, Who’s Got The Button

  1. Karen York says:

    Good story about your mama❤️Karen York

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cassmob says:

    I have inherited a few button jars too as well one of my own collection. I’ve never heard of that game.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: 2022: B… A to Z April Challenge: Time Traveling… Button, Button… Who’s Got The Button | Everyone Has a Story

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