Bedstemor was 94 when she died and though she had ten children, 32 grand children and who knows how many great grand children, I got her jars of buttons.
My Grandmother made quilts. I suppose she made a thousand or more and gave each one away. She used to cut old clothes into squares, sorting and storing the buttons and whatever else was removed. Once our hand-me-downs had been handed down as far as they could go they usually wound up in a quilt. “Hey that’s Nellie’s dress! That’s my poncho!” There were woolly ones and silky ones and even furry ones. When she could she would buy the quilting to go inside, but the outsides were pieces of all her people, backed by so many 70’s flower-power sheets. It was a way of sewing all of us together, though I believe she never intended it that way. “It’s not a bed spread,” she would tell me, “just throw it in the trunk of the car for emergencies.”
Not only did she give away all her quilts but everything else too. It was kind of a family joke that if you gave her something you were sure to see it on someone else at the next event. I was a delinquent grand-daughter with grandiose ideas about visiting regularly, documenting all of her stories, writing a book about her, sharing her with everyone. Through her quilting and her prolific letter-writing she shared herself farther afield than she could ever have traveled and became a one-woman hub of family news. When she died she left a simple collection of items and somehow I ended up with buttons.
Jars of buttons that represent not only her, but all the people whose clothing was cut up to make the quilts. I have often spread them out, sorted them, admired some and recognized some. I figured that someday I would do something with them but had no idea what.
Recently, a neighbourhood jeweller was looking for vintage buttons so I passed the jars to her, sure that they would have a new life. I didn’t think of it at the time, but I suppose it is what Bedstemor would have done. But maybe there is a little bit of Bedstemor in all of us for Julie returned with a charm bracelet; a cluster of Bedstemor Buttons, each link hand-made in a tightly woven pattern like a family, or a community.
Each one unique and the whole a stunning creation.