Box headed for heap yielded treasure

Published 1:22 am Saturday, March 28, 2015

As I pushed a tin cigar box with a rusty top to one side on an end table, I thought of the day my mother turned the key of her house over to the new owner. It was the time so many years ago that I almost let a similar tin slip out of my fingers. If the cover had not fallen open, spilling some of the contents in a plastic bag containing it, I would surely have missed out.

My mother had enlisted the help of my cousin’s wife, along with her neighbor, to help us with what remained during the final countdown. Although it was difficult for her to part with things, we had worked hard and she was tired. By then when one of us held up something, she responded with, “Take it if you want it, if you don’t, pitch it in the garbage, or put it in the junk man’s pile.”

I knew she was really ready to move on when she told her neighbor to take away my granddaddy’s heavy wooden homemade trunk that held some of his coal mining tools. We called it the mystery trunk because it had a picture of an unidentified woman on the inside lid. I was feeling a little sad as the man tugged on it, but forgot it when my cousin lifted the plastic bag with the tin inside and asked, “Junk man’s pile?”

“No!” I yelled above the din of the trunk scraping over the sand we had tracked onto the hardwood floor. That “trash” my cousin was ready to give the junk man was a button box. Soon after my mother had settled in at our house, I dumped the contents of the button box on some newspaper spread on the family room carpet. Mother leaned over to pick up a card with two tiny baby pearl buttons on it. She said she had sewed four buttons from that card on a dress she made for me several months before I was born.

We had a good time examining those buttons. What an assortment—round buttons, square buttons, buttons with ridges, buttons shaped like candy kisses, buttons shaped like flowers, buttons with fruit on them, clear buttons, and covered buttons. I found two classy identical black buttons large as half dollars with a LaMode cardboard label on the back. Three round light green buttons had cracks on the surface and were indented the size of a thumbprint. Two of the most unusual were enclosed circles. One had a flat star in the middle. The other resembled a raised daisy petal in a twisted rope.

We must have looked at buttons for an hour or so. Our hands got dirty, but our hearts were happy. I wondered if anybody else got excited over an old button box, so I took it to work with me. Four co-workers’ heads bent over the box, enthralled at what they saw. Trash? No. Treasure? I believe so.