it started the other day when i couldn’t (but eventually was able to) button the button on the sleeve of my shirt (the one just above the cuff.) as we do these days, i commented on the difficulty i was having pulling that particular button through the eyelet on the shirt sleeve on a variety of social media platforms that i am a member of & received little moués of sympathy from this friend and that one; one commented on the exasperation of modern dress, i riposted with a tidbit of information about the origins of buttons on jacket sleeves (originally placed there to keep soldiers from using the sleeve as a handkerchief or imagine if you will a dirty, unshaven, hungry cavalryman astride his warhorse, a strong wind blowing, bringing with it the ashen scent of fire, gunsmoke, the clanging & explosive sounds of cannon, the screams of the fallen comrade to your right–your nose running in sympathy & fright, of course, you’d bring your sleeve up to your face in a gesture of relief & defiance.)
all of that transpiring in a flurry of 0’s & 1’s, in digital time, beeps & burps from my computer (you’ve got mail!) alerting me to new comments, until one fine young woman said “you need a button hook.”
i respond to common sense (from adults & children) as we all do with a sigh of ‘but, of course, that makes perfect & complete sense, i wish i’d thought of that’; in this instance, a spark appeared above my balding pate, a little flicker of remembrance, a tickle of delight, a feather under the nose of recognition, a sneeze held (remember the buttons on the sleeve!), a gentle nudge from my mother to move forward & claim what was mine from a pile of memories (a clothes bin at goodwill.) “i have one,” i posted, “but i’ll need to locate it under the weary load of the fallen leaves & layers of things/objects/memories i cannot part with, not for anything. ”
interestingly (at least to me) that evening when i got home i walked right to my bedroom, shedding the detritus of the day as i went, greeting dogs & lovers with equal affection (both getting a little scratch behind the ear) but with laser-like focus (the enterprise’s tractor beam pulling me closer.) the german jewelry box (handmade from exotic woods with the inlaid design of a simple country home on the lid,) my treasure chest (since forever) & there & there under the top tray, beneath the dried carnation from my mother’s funeral, the invitation to a going-away party from 1975, a dear, deceased friend’s driver’s license, a newspaper clipping from 1951 of my mother’s marriage to my father, my cub scout knife, (an archeological dig) lay my button hook.
why was it so close at hand and yet so far from being used? you do know how a button hook works, don’t you? you slip the hook through the eyelet & grab the button & pull it through. victorians & edwardians used it to button up their shoes & the tedious line of buttons on the back of a woman’s gown from the time required, yea, demanded such a clever device. (i’ve yet to use it.)
this one, this one came from my mother’s mother (grandmother h.) my spiritualist (edgar cayce devotee) who loved nothing more than sitting in the afternoon (after dinner, the big meal of the day served at noon) on the divan & under the painting of a southwestern desert with its purples & ochres & reading ‘the rubaiyat of omar khayyam.’
but here, now, a thought, a question, came to me, one that i think is important now (freighted with regret): what were my mother’s dreams, my grandmother’s dreams, grandfather’s/uncle’s/aunt’s/my friend’s dreams? what did they dream of hooking & pulling through the eyelet of their life? what accomplishments? what loves?
in all the conversations & times together, i don’t think once, not once, did any of them express what they dreamed their lives to be; what they looked to accomplish with their lives, where they wanted to be. less so with my contemporaries, because we did share amongst ourselves our greatest desires & wishes & my mother occasionally would say, ‘oh, i’d love to own a mercedes benz, that diesel ping is the sound of money in the bank’ (this statement made when gas was but 35¢ a gallon,) but never that sigh of contentment, ‘i am where i always dreamed i’d be at this moment in time.’
if you have the opportunity today, right now, to call or turn to your parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins, your lovers, your friends & ask, “what are your dreams?” or “did your dreams of the life you wanted to lead come true?” do so, do so without hesitation. i think it will make your life richer for the knowing. i know i wish i had.