The other day, I realized I had lost a button on the sleeve of my navy blazer. I know how to sew one on, so I asked my wife if she could get me a button. She told me she would check and see if they sold buttons in Walmart the next time she was in there.
“Don’t we have a big thing full of buttons somewhere?” I asked.
She looked at me like I had asked her if we had a zebra in the bathroom closet.
I was thinking about one of those tins that butter cookies come in, but no longer had cookies in it. I figured it would be filled with buttons and bobbins and pins and things. Every house had one when I was growing up. Sometimes it would be a plastic margarine container or a cigar box, but most of the time, it was one of those big Danish butter cookie tins, and the lid never fit just right. My wife tells me there were several in her childhood home and I remember one or two around our house when I was a child, but there was none to be found in our house now.
It got me thinking about what you really don’t see around the house any longer. My mother, who was not known to sew much, had a big thing of thread and needles around just in case we needed thread and needles. I don’t recall her ever mending much, but if she needed to, the supplies were there. My father-in-law had a huge tool bench in his garage with just about any tool you would need. One afternoon, I was in his garage trying to fix something of mine I had broken and needed a unique tool to fix it. He opened a few drawers and cabinets and found just the right tool. I didn’t bother asking why he had that tool or where he got it. He had it and I was able to fix my stuff. It probably came from his father, who was the type of man to have just about anything to fix just about anything because that’s just the kind of guy he was. Nothing was wasted and everything was needed. It might not be needed now or even soon, but it was always there if it was. His son, my father-in-law, had enough obscure gizmos and gadgets of undeterminable age and nothing was thrown away.
We don’t have any of that stuff in our house. We don’t have a basement or a garage, so I don’t have room for a workbench. We have a little household tool box that has a bare minimum of consumer-grade tools. We have screwdrivers and hammers and I think I have a small selection of wrenches. They are kept in our laundry room, on a shelf above the washer and dryer, in a plastic bin the size of a big shoe box.
I have mentioned in this column previously about the kitchen gadgets my in-laws had amassed over decades of housekeeping. If I tried to list or describe all of them, they would require a special insert in this week’s paper. The additional print costs would cause you to pay more for your paper and I don’t want to be responsible for that. My grandparents had them as well, but rarely used them. I remember seeing them in the drawers when I was a kid and wondering what they were all for. I never did find out what a lot of them were for, but I did discover as a young adult just how lousy the Presto Hotdogger made a frankfurter taste.
In this streamlined world, a lot of the stuff we took for granted doesn’t seem to have much value anymore. That is, until you need a single brass button.
POSTSCRIPT: This columnist was fortunate enough to be awarded by the North Carolina Press Association for this weekly column. It is a great honor to have received the award and not only do I share it with the papers in which this column appears, I share it with each of you. Without the folks who read this column, there is no column. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate each and every one of you. (Even the guy who writes most weeks that he hates my column, but he still reads it.)
Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.