The Candy Button Box

By | June 19, 2011

You could say the box was a simple candy box. Black with drawing of colorful candy on the top and bottom, and the inside, drawer-like, was sliding out easily. My Mom kept buttons in it. Some as big as a snail shell, others as tiny as a baby’s fingertips. The familiar clambering sound of the buttons in the box as my Mom was moving them around to find the right one was my signal to join her. I would spread them all out on the kitchen table and search for the one my Mom needed. The ones I loved the most were the nacre ones. Thin with even thinner edges, never two identical ones, but all with the most beautiful soft rainbow glow in each square millimeter. I felt them with the tip of my fingers and you’d be right to assume that the silent adoration of those buttons marked the beginning of my love story with shells and the sea world.

The box was given to me by one of my cousins, 20 years or so my senior, who was traveling the world on a big fishing vessel. His job and the big ship took him places. The South Pole, Gibraltar and the Bahamas, south of France and Iceland. He always came back with things that both my sister and I found fascinating. Like that black box full of candy and smelling so sweetly that when you first opened it you’d think that a caramel squirrel jumped on your face and chewed on your nose. The smell stayed with the box like a faithful dog long after the candy was chewed and done with. The box always brought maps of wild places dancing in front of my eyes. The clambering noise made by my mom’s buttons was an African dance around a fire, and Moroccan horses pounding the dry roads with their hooves lifting armies of dust clouds around and kids running down streets lined by swaying palm trees.

It’s been five years since my Mom passed away. The house I grew up in is gone now. The white and green kitchen cabinet is still around, together with most of the things that were in the house, including the black candy box. It must be in the top drawer of the cabinet, sleeping there quietly with all the stories about times past cuddling in its white inside with all the buttons like baby chicks huddled under their mama’s big warm wings. One day I will work the courage to open the drawer and take out the box, shredded corners and all. The stories are still there, I know they are, and so are the memories of my mom sitting at the kitchen table mending skirts and pants that had been bitten by gnarly fences we were climbing as kids imagining that we were holding onto lianas and running away from hooting monkeys. Hidden among buttons there are summer skies slashed by lightning and screaming thunder at us kids as we’re laughing and running barefoot to hide under weeping awnings. I miss it all, stories and memories. Good thing they are all in the candy button box…

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