Friday, December 19, 2008

button finding

A week or so ago I reported in a poem that one day I was looking for buttons, albeit inadvertently, haphazardly. Looking on and between the cobblestoned walkways, as M. habitually does, with more practice, determination perhaps, and success than I.
This is an update on that poem, on that report, to say that when she arrived, the first day we were out walking, there it was. Large and dark blue. She found the grandest button in twenty years of finding them. Now it sits in a place of honor in our jar of found buttons.

How could that be? How could there be a place of honor in a jar of buttons? Don’t ask. I just said it. Like finished poetry, you don’t have to examine in great detail and pick it apart. Enjoy the thought for what it is.

This reminds me of the button lady that is no more. As a girl in the 1930s she began working at her Aunt’s store in Campo Dei Fiori. It was fairly large, just to the right, opposite the statue of Bruno. She sold ladies day dresses, and hosiery, common things, older or used clothing for women, and buttons. On one side of her shop she had a floor to ceiling cabinet with small drawers. Buttons and pieces of lace, the odds and ends were kept there. I was fascinated by the cabinetry work from the late 1800s.

All through the war years, into the fifties, sixties and beyond she held store for the everyday clients of that area. The new would come and go all around her while she remained like worn stone, unchanged.

It was during the 90s, when she was old, that the store began to keep irregular hours. She was slowly running out of young nieces to work there with her. They increasingly had better things to do. Older clients, the ones that were her friends and had come there for years to buy and talk and sip tea with her, were slowly homebound and dying. The fellow shopkeepers were retiring, selling off their stores. The Piazza was slowly and steadily changing hands, changing centuries. New business owners didn’t come over to chat and were generally less friendly neighbors.

One day the door stayed closed forever. Meanwhile, M. and I are still finding buttons.

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