Usually when the North Country snow mantle begins to recede in early spring my eyes are on the ground. I’m looking for coins dropped and lost during the winter.
More poignant are the estranged gloves and mittens lying by the curb or hung on nearby trees by helpful passersby. I’m always a little sad to see them there, all hopeful and wistful on their twigs, knowing that they will probably never be reunited with their mates. The experience of lying all winter in the gutter, repeatedly run over by cars and plow trucks, has aged them so that I doubt their mates would recognize them. Even if they did, would they want them back?
“Good grief, Stripey, is that you? Well, you were gone so long, you know, and I’ve been going out with a purple sock singleton...”
This year the lonely mittens don’t move me the way they used to, and when the dimes and pennies wink at me in the sun I just keep walking. Even quarters hold no fascination. I’m looking for a button.
In early March I bought a white down jacket on sale at the Birch Store here in town. It was a great looking jacket, with four big white buttons down the front.
Soon afterward, we woke up to three feet of new snow outside our doors. A friend took my picture as I stood atop a snow bank holding my friend Peg’s snow shovel. Mine was buried in the blizzard. I was wearing the jacket, and all the buttons were there.
I don’t think that people are taking this thing seriously. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t find a button in a town the size of Keene Valley?
“Buttons don’t have to match,” someone told me. “Use a contrasting shape and color.”
It has to be somewhere, not far away. There are only so many places it can be.
Since the button fell off (where? Where?), people around the world have been suffering calamities that are arguably far worse than mine.
A tsunami has ravaged Japan, killing thousands and leaving others homeless. Several of their nuclear plants are damaged, leaking radioactivity into the environment.
My snow shovel has re-emerged from its hiding place, but the button is still missing.
Someone tells me that his elderly aunt was discovered lying unconscious in a snowbank. Her car skidded out on black ice.
At least she probably had all of her buttons intact when they found her, I think. I might actually have said this out loud.
We are now at war with Libya. The United States joined other United Nations countries in establishing a no-fly zone there, to prevent Libya’s ruler, Moammar Gadaffi, or however you want to spell it, from bombing his own people.
The button was about yea big, with four little holes in the middle. Look, the thread is just hanging here where the button used to be.
Some children build a snowman on the school playground.
“Let’s get a carrot for his nose. What should we use for buttons?” asks a little girl.
A teacher mentions she found some good button mushrooms at Price Chopper.
Why must people keep bringing up the subject of buttons? It is just so insensitive, under the circumstances. It’s like when you have an ingrown toenail and everyone seems suddenly compelled to step on your foot. Or like you broke your arm and they push you.
“What color was your button?” the little girl asks me, once she understands I won’t stop talking about it.
“Oh, great,” she says, and all of the children in the group look out at the vast snow-covered playground.
I went to New York City for the weekend. I felt torn. I wanted to stay and look for my button, but was invited to a friend’s birthday party.
“It will be good for you to get your mind on other things,” she told me.
My friend Lisa took me to the Museum of Modern Art and Saks Fifth Avenue. Psychics had shingles on every corner. I considered consulting one about my button, but was afraid of what I might hear. Sometimes it’s better not to know.
On Saturday, the moon was full, and closer to earth than it has been in 18 years. I was riding in a cab, searching the sky, and there it was, framed between skyscrapers, glowing, like a big white button.
Have a good week.