Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Great Christmas Tree: Buttons, Earrings, and Anything Sparkly.

The Great Christmas Tree: Buttons, Earrings, and Anything Sparkly

My wife’s mother, Wilma Boltz, was never one for throwing much away. Much of her frugality came from her mother and father who raised three boys and Wilma through the Great Depression. Instead of throwing away a shirt or a pair of pants, the shirts were used for rags to clean around the house and out in the barn. Prior to the shirt becoming a rag, Grandma Andersen, Mother Boltz’s mother, would cut off the buttons and put them in a jar for safe keeping and for using later.

Mother Boltz at her 89th birthday
Earrings were no different. According to Joanne, her Grandmother Andersen always wore earrings even though she lived on a farm in Annis, Idaho. She dressed in the morning, dawned her apron, and put on a pair of earrings, many of them the clip on types so ubiquitous in that generation. Very few women ever had pierced ears back then. Rather, they lived with clip on, fancy in the day but not necessarily now.

John, Joanne, Mother Boltz, Lou Jean, and Kevin--The Boltz Family
Mother Boltz kept up with the tradition, cutting and clipping and saving. Buttons and earrings were kept in an old multi-colored can, with patterns on the outside with a sharp rimmed lip. Joanne doesn’t remember when her mother created the famous button/earring tree. “It was always a part of Christmas,” said Joanne. “In fact, I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t up during Christmas. There used to be two of them. This one and one that was lighted.” 

Lou Jean, Mother Boltz, and Joanne--the Boltz women
Apparently, the two button trees were the same, except one of them had Christmas lights. Mother Boltz poked a hole through the fabric and stuffed colored lights through, following the shape of the natural tree. When the lights came on, they literally caused the buttons and the earrings to just sparkle.
Tree with wood frame
If you look close at the button and earring tree, you can see a definite pattern. The tree is encased in an 18” x 22” wooden frame. The background is black velvet. Mother Boltz placed the sets of earrings and buttons on directly opposite sides, making up the tree’s perfectly shaped edge. In the middle, she glued on various buttons, beads, colored glass, and old earrings of various shapes, sizes, and colors, all sparkly. Pieces and parts of old gold chain weave in and out of the jewelry and make up the “garland” for the tree.

Whole tree on felt
The base of tree is an old sliver pin that she had collected from somewhere.
Bottom of the tree
The star at the top is a small piece, comprised of crystal stones.
Top of the tree
I suspect the button/earring tree will continue to be a part of our family for years to come and then be handed down, never thrown away, especially knowing that all of parts and pieces of this glorious tree were saved and squirreled away for some use in the future.

Anna Rose, our daughter, said, “Even when we lived far away from Grandma, the Christmas tree helped me remember the moments we shared.”
Joanne, Hailey, Anna Rose, Mother Boltz, Shawna--Anna Rose's high school graduation
Now, the tree will be remembered as it should be, not as old buttons, earrings, and pieces of glass. Rather, it will the memories of time past with Mother Boltz, a source of wisdom for saving odds and ends to be used at a later date to make beautiful things.

1 comment:

Vickie Rucker said...

Fabulous memory to have! Chuck's mother had a jewelry tree also . . . I now wish I knew what happened to it! xo