My kids are growing. They’re tall now, and opinionated. Henry enjoys lining up all his cars on one surface, then transferring the line up to another surface. Eleanor enjoys drawing with crayons. They both love running in the grass. Neither have many words yet, but it seems like they have some new skill every day.
We were outside on a cold day, and Eleanor was frustrated that I couldn’t button her blue sweater. My granny knitted that sweater for my brother. The sweater on my son, the yellow, was made for me. Yellow has buttons and a hood. Blue has neither, but Eleanor didn’t care that there were no buttons to button. She wanted hers to fasten the same way the other sweaters did.
We went inside. She found something else to fuss over. I set the sweater aside to clean, and found it had button holes knit into the edge of the fabric. Maybe the instructions for the sweater included them, but my granny thought the sweater looked better without. Maybe she wanted to see the sweater on my brother so much that she decided to forgo buttons entirely. I don’t know. I can’t ask her. She’s gone.
I know that she would not mind me sewing buttons. I loved that about her; if something needed doing, she wasn’t going to ask the past for permission. She’d applaud Eleanor’s insistence that the sweater needed buttons. She liked my strong will, and she’d love how my daughter is becoming more like me.
Today I sewed buttons on a sweater that was made over three decades ago. There were four of them, and the one at the top was not a perfect match to the others. They were from the small stash of buttons I had on hand. I didn’t really think of my granny until I had finished, if she’d have put the mismatched button at the bottom, or somewhere else, or if she’d have left it off and only sewed in three. I don’t know how well the buttons will last. If they’ll still be there in another thirty years, when I uncover the sweater and give it to my daughter. Or my son. They trade clothes a lot, and there are few things that belong solely to Henry or Eleanor.
(Do not give Henry the wrong shoes. Do not give Eleanor the wrong plush.)
I am grateful that I can give them things that tie to their great grandmother, even though I know they won’t remember her. The sweaters. Pictures. Her spirit and her practicality. I don’t dwell often on what I miss, but I am missing her today. There is something meditative to doing the small work. Laundry, dishes, buttons. It carries backward, to the people who’ve done it for me, and forward to the people I do it for now.
We’re going to the park when the kids wake from their nap. Eleanor will be able to button her sweater because of the work I’ve done today, and the work my granny did decades ago.