I use it now to hold current memorabilia like favorite concert tickets and postcards. Along with a cotton boll my mother gave me years ago to remind me always of Mississippi. My daddy’s glasses and his old elementary school report cards (Junior Kerr, Burnside Consolidated School, Fifth Grade, 1929). And even though those things appear to fill it up, the Button Box has a bottomless capacity for memories.
Louisville, Mississippi (pronounced “Lewisville”) is where both of my parents were raised. My dad was known as “Junior,” and his three sisters, my aunts, were Kat, Dinky and Dot. And my grandmother was known to the children as “Mema.” The seven first-cousins on the Kerr side of my family would converge on Mema’s house all at once or in separate visits and turn the old wooden Bloodhound tobacco box upside down and pour out its treasures. Empty and full thread spools, odd buttons that didn’t match any others in the house, keys that went to long lost locks, and a broken watch which, as the saying goes, was still right at least twice a day.
My grandmother had a television in the 1960s, but the reception resulted in a snowy, hissy picture with a blurry, black and white image, at best. She had a contraption on top of it that was supposed to aim the antenna toward the nearest TV station, though it appeared from the picture on the screen that the gizmo was mainly for looks.
That’s where the Button Box came in. It was better than TV, which we could watch at home anytime. I can vividly remember the anticipation of playing with all the junk in that box whenever it was announced that we were going to visit Mema. Even with enough manufactured toys to stock a small store in my room in Jackson, my mind immediately began to envision the treasures held in the Button Box when we started driving to Louisville.
How Mema came to have that particular box we don’t know. But my cousins and I are certainly glad it came to her. The tax stamp on the entire box which had held who knows how many plugs of tobacco was a whopping five cents. The stamp is still on the box, along with the red image of a hound going after its prey. And inside are a million childhood memories that seven adults spread from Philadelphia, Mississippi to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania still cherish.