A Life in Buttons

Reader's Digest US|July - August 2020

A Life in Buttons
Bought at auction, a vintage cookie tin opens a window into a neighbor’s secreted heart
By Karen Grissinger

“GOING, GOING, GONE, for $3 to bidder No. 43, the lady in the last row, white hat.” The auctioneer called out my auction number and location. I had just won the bidding for a 1950s cookie tin full of memories at an estate sale outside McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, near the farm where my husband and I live.

Delighted at my victory, I took the box and gave it a shake. The contents rattled. I pried off the lid and took a peek. Inside were dozens—or maybe even hundreds—of buttons, pins, and other items, all glittering in the sunlight. It reminded me of my mom’s button box. As a girl, I’d always enjoyed digging through it, just as my own daughters enjoyed looking through mine.

I listened to the auctioneer’s patter as more objects were bid on and sold. I bought some lovely embroidered pillowcases and a few other things. Soon my eye caught the movement of a swing on the front porch of the house. A petite older woman watched the happenings in her yard, her eyes wandering over the crowd, looking for the familiar faces of friends and neighbors.

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July - August 2020