It’s not hoarding if it’s heirlooms, and it’s not Jessica’s fault that people trusted her with their button boxes. It was entirely reasonable that her great grandmother, two grandmothers, two aunts and a neighbour would pass their collections to the family craftswoman. It was, perhaps, unusual that Jessica spent so much time with the buttons. The old Roses and Quality Street tins of similar vintage both held buttons dating from the 1920s to the 1980s, but of vastly different quality. Silver, mother of pearl and exotic woods contrasted with fabric coated plastic and tarnished brass. Jessica’s grandmothers had never really got on. Her great grandmother’s legacy was a drawstring silk bag that held a collection of tiny shirt buttons and huge coat buttons that still smelled, after many decades, of snuff and gardenias. A Danish butter biscuits tin from the 1990s held the memory of biscuits and an assortment of plastic buttons, many of them still attached to the card. If Jessica closed her eyes, she could match them to the Aran knit cardigans that her aunt had worn so often. The other aunt had kept up with the times, her collection was sorted by colour into plastic bags, all packed solidly into a pretty Cath Kidston tin. As for the neighbour’s legacy, a deluge of lightly worn novelty buttons in an Asda bag spoke of a passion for yarn crafts and a bewildering supply of grandchildren.

Jessica knitted and crocheted, she made bookmarks and greeting cards, she moulded clay and strung jewellery, but never used the heirloom buttons. She visited them, talked to them, and remembered.

The day came when she remembered no more, she was bundled away, to be cared for. Her daughter found the buttons, and tipped them all into a bucket. £10, on Marketplace, collection only.

Copyright Jeanette Greaves, May 2023

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