Sewing a button, a mundane task but one that was needed. The button had popped off at his dad’s funeral and he was getting ready to set off for his uncle’s, tomorrow. He just asked for thread and a needle, he would do it himself he said. But I opened the button box and I was transported once more to my childhood. The button box is actually a very old tea caddy; metal on the outside and wood on the inside to keep the tea damp but not too damp. Grandma had always used it in my lifetime as a button box and I would play with them when I was at her house. She taught me to sew and helped me with school embroidery that my clumsy, chubby fingers could not fathom. It was one of two items I requested from her house when she passed away.
Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man.
The biography of the man himself cannot be written.
Sean is the eldest son, the only one living in Ireland so he is representing the entire clan back in England. None of the children or I can go due to school and work commitments but we had a time of remembering and sharing uncle yesterday. Ross and I had the shared memory of a sliced pan, 1lb of sliced ham and fresh butter, Smudge and Airbag had other memories and Sean still more. From his childhood he recalled the bog days, the hay days and market days, it was not that long ago and yet, last night seemed so far away.
I sewed the button and prayed for Sean as he travels, the family who are gathered and the family members who cannot make it. I had to move the button a half inch to counteract any potential popping. Sean was disgruntled and pulled his stomach in, but there is only so much pulling in can be done. He went to make tea so wasn’t that offended.
Writing is like sewing together what I call these ‘buttons,’ these bits and pieces.
Mundane tasks give us the opportunity to remember, to pray, to think of others, to experience the presence of God as our mind flits over the day or week or month. There is a silence that descends and a peace that opens wide and we can know we are in the presence of the living God.
He doesn’t just care about the big things like grieving the loss of a dad or an uncle, he is there in the mundane, helping us look at memories with new eyes, the eyes of maturity.
At some point in my life when I was describing playing with buttons, it was suggested to me that I was encouraged to play with “girl” stuff, with the equipment of womanhood – buttons, cooking utensils etc., but that I wasn’t encouraged to do “boy’ stuff. The memory was tainted, it is only now in maturity that I can reclaim these memories as special times with my grandma.
All the women who were skilled in sewing and spinning prepared blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen cloth.
As I sat sewing the button, I imagined her voice, telling me how to do it, explaining endlessly with infinite patience how the needle, thread, button and cloth interacted and worked together. Maybe we can learn from the needle and thread as much as we learn from the buttons in life.