A mass of buttons from events and locations from throughout the world. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Nearly a lifetime of memories is pinned to a wall in my garage.

Since I was a kid I have been collecting buttons. Not the kind found on clothes, but the ones that say something. Historical, political, special events, business promotions, sports, travel and so much more are represented in this collage. Some are images, some are words, some are a combo of the two.

I haven’t counted them, but certainly they number in the hundreds if not four digits worth of these mostly round trinkets of sorts.

I don’t know how it started or where or why. It was probably when I had a knit cap for skiing. The bottom of it was adorned with pins from every resort I skied.

In high school I was part of an honor society called Senior Women. We wore a hat on meeting days. It too was covered with a variety of buttons; many with sayings on them or touting a band I liked. I thought I was such a rebel with the button: “If it ain’t Stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck.” Stiff is a record label that meant nothing to me. I still have the button.

This grew into collecting buttons from places I would travel to; something I still do.

When I first lived in Lake Tahoe in the late 1980s many of the casino workers would wear promotional buttons as part of their uniform. I coaxed several of them to part ways with them. I would unabashedly ask strangers in any setting if I could have their button. This, along with friends being on the lookout for ones, is how so many came into my possession.

Joy Rothschild mostly collected political buttons. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

My favorite ensemble of buttons from a friend came via Joy after she died. She had a felt wall hanging with an assortment of political buttons, all liberal, many with a San Francisco Bay Area connection. They hang as she had them next to my two flags full of buttons.

Looking at Joy’s buttons you definitely know her political bent—far left. Looking at mine it would be hard to know. I just want buttons.

I don’t have a favorite, though one I really like is from the Library of Congress in Washington. It represents the actual building so well; and that is one of favorite places in our nation’s capital.

One day when I have nothing better to do I may organize my buttons by category. For the most part they are haphazardly placed, though the San Francisco Giants ones are mostly together.

Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to find buttons when I’m visiting someplace new, and more expensive. But they are great souvenirs. It’s not like a T-shirt that eventually will be discarded or some other trinket that ends up in a cupboard never to be seen again.

Though, there was a time when all these buttons of mine were in a box. I decided I either needed to do something with them or at least stop accumulating more. Finally, they ended up on a California flag. That got full so I started filling up a San Francisco Giants flag. Both are hanging in my garage. While this is not a prominent place, it is something I can see every day, and, well, that really is all that matters for something like this. And I have plenty of room to keep collecting before I would need another flag.

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