The Button Trust

Grandma Seiler’s Button Box. July, 2011.
Rhinestones, Plastic Monkeys, and A Good Marriage
As we prepare to embark on a summer vacation in the desert, I decide to replace buttons that have long since gone missing from two pairs of my husband Rich’s shorts.

I ask him what kind of buttons he prefers.

He tells me as long as they’re the right size, he trusts me to choose.

Obviously he doesn’t know about the treasures of Grandma’s button box. 

This metal tin belonged to my paternal grandmother, Alice Marie Seiler, and it holds buttons made from pink, orange, and blue plastic, wood, bone, metal, and shell, along with a stray monkey from a Barrel of Monkeys game.

I’ve raided it for important family events. When my niece, Allison Marie Seiler, was baptized, my brother and his wife granted me the honor of sewing her dress. I chose a mother-of-pearl button, carved into a rose, to adorn the crown of the bonnet.

And I raid it for routine mending, like the long-overdue button replacement I’m about to undertake.

I open the tin and my fingers wander through the basket. I pick up a rhinestone-studded beauty and remember my husband’s words: “As long as it’s the right size, I don’t care what it looks like.”

I think he would care if I sewed a rhinestone button onto his khaki cargo shorts.

Suddenly memories ensnare my fingers as they fondle these old buttons. I’m 16. We’re celebrating my grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary. Grandma is in brocade and a perfect-lipstick smile and Grandpa wears a tie. The hall is filled with friends, the scent of lavender, and the rustle of ladies’ dresses. I watch my grandparents kiss and I see the trust between them.

I put down the rhinestone button and set aside my idea to play a prank by sewing it onto Rich’s shorts.

My husband trusts me. That’s nothing to toy with.

3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
I Corinthians 7:3 (NASB)


  1. I used to love running my fingers through my grandma's button box! What a gift, inheriting this one from yours. Love the lonely monkey who lives in there!

  2. It is a treasure, Nancy.

    I never thought of the monkey as lonely. Hmm.

  3. For decades I cherished a tin of buttons from my grandmother, and it looked much like yours. I must have given it to a relative when we moved to Africa, but I still think often of my grandma's button tin and wish I still owned it. What stories those buttons could tell!

    Thanks for the enjoyable read!


  4. A Joyful Noise

    As a child especially on rainy days, I spent many a happy hour sorting through my mother's button box. She saved buttons from old dresses, uinderwear, coats and who knows what else? You just never know when you might need that extra button?

  5. Thank you, Ladies! Forget the traveling pants…it sounds like we could start the Sisterhood of the Treasured Button Box!

  6. Jennifer @

    I love old buttons, too. Can I join the Sisterhood? 🙂

  7. Would you, please, Jennifer?

    When my grandmother's Alzheimer's had progressed to the point that we knew she would never live in her own apartment again, we gathered to sort through her belongings, which were in a storage unit.

    Someone in the family had put the button box in the "auction" bin.

    I'm not generally one to jump up and say "gimme" when we're talking about a family member's possessions, but I am so glad I found my voice that day.

  8. This just brings back memories. My mother kept a mason jar with old mismatched buttons. Something so viscerally satisfying about scooping those things up and listening to the sounds they make rubbing together. Now, I have a little box I keep mine in. But you have made me seriously consider a tin. Or maybe a jar.

  9. I'm a tactile person…it's their feel that I adore.

    Laura, I have a feeling the perfect home for your button collection will present itself to you. Yard sale? Your own attic/basement? Unexpected gift?

    Like the truth, it's out there. 🙂

  10. Lyla Lindquist

    I know what those button collections feel like. Mom had a jar.

    But tell me this, can you? The smell. What's it like? I can sometimes remember the smell of some of my great grandma's things. But I lack the right words to lay it out.

  11. Lyla, that's a challenge. I will have to investigate.