Not disregarding all of the years spent playing with my Mom’s laundry basket as a child, my love affair with baskets began in earnest in 1971, when my mother-in-law gave me a handwoven wicker basket full of baby products for my newborn son.
Everything I could possibly need was held inside, and as my son grew, the basket’s contents changed and held his books and toys, then his Legos and model airplane parts. Eventually it held toilet tissue, French lavender soaps and body lotion in old houses devoid of bathroom shelving. That first basket lasted me a good 25 years.
We are downsizing, and I am choosing what to keep. This apartment has many things going for it, not the least of which is a ledge perfect for all of my baskets. Eight are sitting up on the ledge, the rest are used for storing bread and chips, serving rolls or fruit, and for an occasional basket of buttered popcorn with a late-night movie.
There was a time when I thought seriously about learning to make baskets. There was also a time when the idea of a trip to an asylum, and getting to sit around all day weaving baskets, sounded like a vacation to me.
Thankfully, that all passed. I did learn how to dye baskets and have a red dip-dyed willow one. It held a chocolate bunny and jelly beans back when. It holds seashells now.
My favorite is a lidded, pine needle one from New Mexico, a gift from my son’s godfather, Michael. I grew-up playing in the pines behind our house, and filling Mom’s laundry basket with pine cones was like having a treasure chest full of loot. It was love at first sight, because this basket reminded me of those days. It has served me well; holding my jewelry and bracelets, acting as a piggy-bank, and always being a reminder of my enduring friendship with the family I married into, even after a divorce.
I may need to pare down my collection, but this one will definitely make many more trips with me. Baskets can hold not only lotions, pins and powder, or fresh fruit and baguettes, they hold memories. And the miraculous thing about them is no matter how open the weave, the memories never slip out.