Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Among our souvenirs

Vintage Chinese button bag, or so we were told.
Painted or drawn face on stuffed fabric disc.
Early in the 1970s my sister and I visited an antique shop, the only one of its kind in LA's Chinatown.  There we each purchased a silk vintage doll-shaped drawstring pouch, described to us as button bags.  At a point in the past 15 years, my little treasure and I lost each other.  On Monday, my birthday, my sister sent me hers. 

We have wondered about, talked about, our palm-sized finds many times during the intervening 46 years.  We remembered the hush of the shop, what appeared to be museum-quality pieces in the display cases and on the floor, and the fact that, in such priceless splendor, we could purchase something that seemed equally rare.  We've never seen anything quite like the little bags, nor have I been able to think of a description that would bring up a matching image on Google.  Thus we have no real idea of the time in which the so-called button bags were made, but from the state of the silk, our guess would be perhaps the 1920s.  Were they popular, did all the girls have them?  Were they made for the American market?  They have the appearance of a gift item, but who could be sure.  While the top is faded, the underside still shows the original pink color, onto which an adhesive price sticker had been...stuck.  Its discoloration remains.  Who puts a sticker on silk, we've asked.

But beyond the details is that fact of restoration, one of my favorite themes.  That my sister decided that mine was the home where the one remaining treasure should stay touched me,  almost to the point of wordlessness.  We enjoyed such a long time of having the twins, making my thoughtless or unavoidable act of losing mine especially painful.  Last year my brother-in-law sent me a photo of the survivor, since I couldn't remember some of the smaller details.  I've thought of trying to make one - or some - at a point, even researching vintage silk on etsy.

If this seems much ado about, well, nothing, that may be so.  In the wider world, the bigger picture, what could this possibly matter?  Yet I know we take nourishment of the deepest kind from objects that please us, their value far less important than the moments of which they are souvenirs.  Things.  Talismans, mementos, shiny or not-shiny objects that catch our eyes, that speak to us.  I can easily become critical of myself as being materialistic, still I know our human connection to material things is not without meaning, nor is it entirely shallow.  If that were the case, there would be no curators, no professions in which the finding, preserving, cataloging and displaying of goods were revered.

To keep the button bag company on its trip across the continent, my sister selected an illustrated fabric disc with what I will call a moon face.  Its edge is studded with the heads of straight pins.  We assume it was a purely decorative object.  I am a great fan of moons.  I am also the devoted fan of a sister whose generous heart allowed her to part with the sole surviving find from a shared adventure.  Thank you, Laurie.  I will try to be a better steward this time.


Kass said...

Yes. Yes, anyTHING has all the meaning and joy we give it.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Exactly. And we value it accordingly. xo