It started with one sturdy willow basket. My husband and I received it, filled with fruit, as a Christmas gift from his employers at the Western-Southern Life Insurance Company. I kept it in the center of our dining room table. When the fruit was gone, I bought more to replace it. A bag of apples looked more inviting when spilled out into a nice basket. Oranges, too, made an attractive centerpiece. Sometimes, it was a mixture of apples, oranges and bananas.
Out on a walk with my young daughters one day, I came upon a garage sale. There was little that I wanted, and even less that I could afford. One item caught my eye, though. A simple round basket, in perfect condition, woven of fine reeds in two shades of brown. On the bottom, a tiny rectangle of red fabric had a row of Chinese characters and one printed word: CHINA. It seemed so exotic! And it was only twenty-five cents!
Slowly, over the years, I added to my collection. Sometimes I bought them new. Pier One Imports was a treasure trove! I never bought more than one at a time, though, and I always made sure it was unique or special, and that I thoroughly loved it.
Sometimes they were given to me. A large six-sided basket that Catherine White gave me hangs on the end of the cabinet, just inside the kitchen door. Sometimes, when the dogs rush out in a flurry, it gets knocked to the floor. I pick it up and rehang it, and think, again, of the dear woman – gone now many years – that gave it to me.
A few are hand-made. A rectangular, two color handled basket, made by my friend Judi, has a place of honor on top of the refrigerator. Next to it is the dark woven round handled basket that my daughter Jen made in art class, and the squat rustic basket decorated with ribbons and dried flowers that my daughter Kate made. Keeping them company is the cherry wood, rope handled “pie bucket” that Bill Freese made for me, with the condition that I should use it to deliver a homemade pie to him now and then.
I use every single basket that I own. Some are permanent receptacles for small items in drawers or on shelves.Larger ones hold magazines, correspondence and palm-sized books. CDs, DVDs and cassette tapes are contained each in their own basket. Yarn, crochet hooks and on-going hat or slippers projects keep company in another one. Others are pulled in to duty to hold bread or rolls. I still like to keep fruit on display in a basket. Some are good for gathering vegetables from the garden.
Sometimes I think I have too many baskets. It’s one of those things, though, that feels like an integral part of who I am. I am comfortable with it. I could quit being a basket collector, and get rid of them all…but I’m afraid I’d always miss them. So, I have baskets…and all the memories that come with them.