Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Off On A New Tack

This morning I've decided to leave the weather behind; sun, rain, wind, or snow and ice - be gone! Instead, I intend to embark on the calmer waters of childhood memories. Did I say calmer? Probably not the right word for one born in 1941 in wartime Britain. But the mind is able to muffle the 'Whumpf!' of dropping bombs and the wailing ululations of those horrific sirens, as they had no real meaning in a small child's world - were simply 'noises off' in act 1, scene 1 of my life.

Mum and I lived at Granny Ada's while my Dad sailed the seas with The Royal Navy, so my memories are entwined with the extended family who managed to squeeze into that tiny house: Auntie and Uncle: two cousins (their daughter's): a maiden Aunt: Gran: Mum - and yours truly.
For the best part of three years that was my home territory, although my parents did have a flat in a large, three storied house a short walk away, I have no particular war time memories of living in it until my brother was born in 1944 .

With the unavoidable stresses and strains of living through a war, tempers were lost, family feuds waxed and waned, laughter, tears and love always providing a strong enough glue to repair any chips or cracks in the whole structure of family life as I knew it then.

With such a selection of grown ups around to play with, who needed toys? At least, of the conventional variety. I know I had a small, stuffed panda, made in a gingerbread man shape, that my eighteen year old cousin gave me for my first birthday; to this day, I have his 'remains' in my chest of drawers upstairs. He's flatter than ever, and a hole in the bald, plush fabric of his once glossy head will still leak a little sawdust -or was it straw?- if he's handled too roughly. But apart from that, I had more down to earth, every day items to serve as playthings, when the cousins weren't entertaining me, of course.

One of my favourite 'toys' was my Auntie's button box - presumably once I got beyond the baby stage of putting extraneous objects in mouth - so here is the resulting memory wrapped up in the guise of a poem, for you to join me in my game.

The Button Box

When I was a child and went to stay
with my Granny and Auntie, I loved to play
with the large box of buttons they kept on a shelf
and allowed me to take down and open myself.

I'd sort them by sizes, or colours, or feel,
wondering what each new scrape would reveal
as I dug for the depths of the box full of treasures.
Their slip-sliding movement afforded such pleasure,
reminiscent of pits dug in sand on a beach,
where a base, tantalisingly, stays out of reach.

I had special favourites: one silver and white,
that looked like a seagull in soaring flight:
one like a posy of flowers in grass,
painted so carefully on transparent glass
that sparkled, as slowly it twisted and turned
beneath my enquiring fingers. I learned
of the stories attached by a thread
of time and memory to the buttons that fed
my dawning imagination.

Now, many years later, I too have a tin
full of various buttons, right up to its rim.
Amongst their number is one silver and white
that looks like a seagull in soaring flight
and one like a posy of flowers in grass,
painted so carefully on transparent glass.


  1. Thanks for that splendid dip into the past. It revived so many memories.
    I - and I think my friends - rather enjoyed the wump of falling bombs, the search for shrapnel and the wail of the sirens etc. I still have pangs of guilt from having enjoyed it so much.

  2. That jogs a faint memory. Very faint but there.

  3. We had our great-grandmother's button box, empty spools and small china animals. And to play with grandmother's jewel box was pure heaven.

  4. Oh, I remember my maw maw had all these bottles - old perfume bottles and such - and she promised them to me; well, fast forward years later and when she died, someone just threw them all away - broke my heart when I found out.... why would they do that without asking her grandchildren? In fact, all my letters to her, our photos - we never received them and never knew what happened to them ....dang.

  5. Simple pleasures, Jinksy, from a different time - I recall my nanna always making me peg dolls from wooden clothes pegs - Great fun, and I loved them... I loved their sewing boxes too - Chock full of delights and treasures, just as you say, wise Jinksy x

  6. That's lovely. I hesitate to say this, being a boy and all, but one of my favorite things was my Grandma's button box. I was fascinated by them. Thanks for reminding me of that pleasure!

  7. I'm a little younger than you are and spent part of my childhood in Germany, just when the Berlin wall went up - an airforce brat. We didn't get the whump of bombs but we did get the sirens and then long treks through the black forest to sit in air raid shelters eating stale crackers and raisins. And I still have my mother's button box, a 1950's style toiletries/vanity suitcase full of old pill bottles containing buttons sorted by colour and size.

  8. Loved the poem. I to would play with my Grandmother's button box. But what I liked most was when she would get out the old (more like a portable) boxed shaped phonograph that had this large thing that looked like a horn attached, and we would get out the box of round cylinders (they were like the records) put one on the holder and crank it up and listen to opera. That was about the only music she had for that thing. But we didn't care, it made noise. LOL I wonder what ever happened to the phonograph of the cylinders. They would probably be worth a fortune now.

  9. Whatever happened to button boxes Jinksy? Everyone used to have one. My mother would carefully snip every button off any garment before she discarded it (not that that happened often!) - usually the garment was then cut up for rag rugs or quilts, depending on its thickness and suitability. Your poem evoked a few forgotten memories.

  10. That was wonderful - and nice to know that you were able to keep your favourites.

    I can remember my Granny's button box.. the sight, the sound and even (mostly) the smell. It smelled of her scented talc. Thanks for the memory.

  11. Childhood memories are wonderful things. My grandmother had a button drawer which I enjoyed pulling out and playing with. She allowed me to do that.
    I , of course, lack the ability to write such a beautiful poem about the memory but thank you for yours.

  12. ooh! I lOVED my mom's button tin! I had forgotten all about it until now. Thanks for bringing that back to me. And I loved the poem! As always, you're a genius. Jenni

  13. i love button boxes, or jars as I have seen. They have always fascinated me. I also used to love to separate them. I had forgotten about them for awhile.

  14. I used to love playing with my Mum's button tin - endless hours of amusement. She used to try to find unusual buttons to add into it without me noticing and then would challenge me to find the new ones. Fond memories of a simpler time! I'm glad I came here because I'd forgotten.

  15. Jinksy, We have to stop meeting like this. It isn't my email address that's not working, it's yours. I received and replied to two email messages from you. Send me another and see if we can sort it out. I can fish my responses out of the sent bin.

  16. Oh, man does that about the box of buttons bring back memories. My Foster mom was the kind that kept everything. She did not throw anything way. She had a tin can box, the round ones like fruitcakes came in during the holiday season. It was black with pink and blue posies on. She kept it in hew sewing drawer and I would get it out and use the buttons when we played store.

    great memories...

  17. Excellent imagery! I can feel and hear the buttons sliding.

  18. Oh, I do love button boxes. My mother had one, and I keep one today. You remind me of a short story I once wrote, years ago. I must go find it. Thank you.

  19. Button boxes. I've a jar that I had to be very vigorous with a woman at auction to win. Yay. Thirteen bucks and it's full!

    I still have a button from my grandmother's coat. Love buttons. Great poem.


Curiosity Cats can leave a whisker here...but not before noting, please, that I choose to have an award free, tag free, meme free blog. But by all means, talk to me by email - I love to 'chat'...