We went to my grandmother's house today. We started off in a frenzy of tearing labels off pill bottles and dumping all the pills in a bag for disposal, trashing half-eaten food products and bagging unopened goods for donation. Then we moved on to drifting through rooms, opening drawers. Mom showed my aunt and me where the costume jewelry was. "If you want anything, take it."
And this became a litany for my mom: "What do you want?" "What do you want?" "What do you want?"
And aii, Mom, I don't know; it's hers
. I know she's not alive anymore, but it's hers, that Wyrding Studios pendant is hers, everything is hers.
Then I thought of something. "Mom, I know this is weird. But if you find any buttons..."
"Yeah. They're used as an accent in a lot of knitting projects, like on a hat or up the side of fingerless mitts. So, just, if you find a stash of buttons, a button bag or jar or whatever, I'd like that. I could have the buttons on a hat or something and remember her when I wear it."
My aunt said, "You could go in the closet and cut them off of the clothes," and I gave her A LOOK, because oh my god. No. We are donating the clothes, surely. We must be. I am not cutting the buttons off of clothes and rendering them unusable
Mom said, "Did she have a sewing kit?"
And there, on a shelf in the closet, was a little wicker basket with a broken latch. I opened it and - yes. Buttons! Button motherlode.
And. Oh my.
"These are old spools of thread," I mused as I lifted them off the buttons. And then I realized how old they were. Tiny wooden spools! And I lifted the top tray and looked beneath, and could not stop saying "oh my god" for several minutes.
Packets of snaps and hook and eye closures marked 5 cents apiece. Packets of needles from Woolworth in New York, and a pack of Army/Navy sewing needles. So many wooden spools. Mom had never seen this kit. Grandma only rarely used it.
I think this kit dates back to World War II. It's a time capsule.
Delicate packets of needles wrapped in tissue paper, thimbles, cheap satin pincushion.
"We can mail that to you," Mom said. They were watching me unfold the Woolworth's packet, marvel at the heft of the antique spools, and everybody knows that no one else in the family will ever
pick up a needle and thread. My sister gets the furniture (with one exception), my aunt gets the dishes.
I get the sewing kit.
From the costume jewelry drawer, I picked a 1940s gold branch-shaped brooch that will live on my winter coat, and an MTA token that my grandmother, who moved from New York in the 1950s, saved all these years. I gave kythryne
a Boston T token to make into a piece for me a while back, but never finished commissioning the piece. Now I know why - it needed my grandmother's MTA token.