I used to work at a private college overseeing fundraising and alumni relations. Each February I would plan a trip to a small Danish village north of Santa Barbara called Solvang where a lot of the college’s alumni resided.
One of those alumni was a delightful 90+ year old lady named Nanna. She loved to read and sew and I remember fondly our conversations. We became good friends over the years.
When I left her in 1994 to return home she was vibrant and of sound mind. A year later I found Nanna had been moved to a memory unit within her complex. I couldn’t believe how in just one year how she had become consumed by Alzheimer’s.
Nanna was surely alive as she sat in her rocking chair in front of me, but she was in a totally different world altogether. She was polite, of course, but had no recollection of our close personal relationship. Most of her friends and relatives had already passed so she had very few visitors. She seemed so alone.
I remember staring as a box of buttons that were sitting by a small dresser near to her chair. I remember thinking that there was no hope of those buttons ever being put to use by Nanna. I remember thinking how sad that thought was.
On my flight back home, I pulled out a tablet and wrote the poem “Button in a Box.”
I reflected on the plight of loneliness that many people find themselves in whether that be old age, illness, loss of job or a loved one, broken relationships, separation from God, etc.
Eight years later (on a whim) I decided to enter the poem into the annual Iowa Poetry Association Contest. I was blessed to have the poem awarded first place in the Poems for Children Category and published in the 2003 Lyrical Iowa.
Button in a Box
I’m a button in a box, I wish I had a friend.
Someone who could keep me warm in the soft part of their hand.
I use to have a purpose in my younger years back then.
Attached upon a raincoat, how I long to be again.
I know it may not seem like a button’s life is much,
But when you’ve been where I have, you appreciate that touch.
Few times though it may have been, each time meant lots to me.
Cause when I got slipped into place, my purpose all could see.
And then one day I won’t forget, the driving wind and rain,
I came unloose and popped right off. It’s never been the same.
I feel like I’m not wanted. I’ve been laying here for years.
And if a button could cry at all, I’d be shedding lots of tears.
I’d change if I was able, but a button has to wait.
It’s only when we’re picked up, do we suddenly awake.
It’s something ‘bout a loving hand, that heals the hurt within.
If I could only have one wish, I’d be inside your hand.
Many lonely people feel like buttons in a box,
Waiting for a loving hand to give back what they’ve lost.
Hold this in your thoughts each day. Be mindful and alert.
Buttons might come into sight, who are filled with pain and hurt.
Written by David L. Burrier © 1995
Awarded first place – Iowa Poetry Association Contest
Poems for Children Category and Publication in Lyrical Iowa 2003