Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Memories Stored...in a basket

I've often joked that my brain is like a giant warehouse filled with file cabinets.  The ones brimming over are filled with trivia and the one with the single file folder is reserved for Math.  You think I'm joking?  I've literally had conversations with family members that sound like this.

          (hope answers phone) "Hello."
         (caller)  "Hey do you remember the name of that actor who was in that cowboy thing when you were a kid but became some dirty, gun toting cop with an attitude until he decided he'd rather direct?"
          (hope)  "Um... Clint Eastwood." 
          (caller)  "That's him!  Wow, that was driving me nuts."  (caller hangs up).

No one in my family has ever called me to solve a math problem.  

Ask a man a question and you usually get a to the point answer.  But it's said a woman's mind doesn't always go from Point A to Point B.  That's because one word can send us ricocheting around that file cabinet room like we're on a scavenger hunt. A single word can evoke 12 different memories...because each new word leads to another memory.  Now if a scientist had to follow my thought pattern on one of those mental journeys, he'd need a map. Poor Hubby.  Sometimes I'll ask him a question which is, for him, out of the blue. For example we may be discussing Christmas. During a momentary lull in the conversation, my brain starts musing about what to get him this year, which leads to equating the holiday with the aroma of cinnamon, leading me to muse that people don't bake much any more for the holidays, thus reminding me  I need to buy fresh cranberries next month to make homemade cranberry jelly before Thanksgiving, which I'd rather spend at home this year but as long as we have leftover turkey for cold sandwiches, I'll be happy.  And the end of all that might be a question to Hubby of, "So,what do you want for dinner?"

But the truth is, memories are linked together.  How we access them probably tells a lot about our personalities.  Why just yesterday, Kim Ayres helped me solve the mystery of why I have such a deep and abiding love for handwoven baskets.  

His latest blog was on an artist who weaves beautiful baskets out of willow.  I use to collect baskets, until my love of them was larger than the space they took up.  Over the years I've had to part with a few, but I always refuse to let go of those which have a texture to them.  Oddly enough, seeing those willow baskets made me experience some warm, fuzzy feeling of contentment.....followed by an odd sadness.  And then the file cabinets began to open up, spewing out a memory I'd almost forgotten about.

I was raised a Baptist.  Every Sunday meant Sunday school for lessons in the Bible, followed by Church service.  And then, as soon as school was out for the summer, the church had a week of Vacation Bible School (VBS).  Every morning for a week we would go to church, separate by age groups, learn some biblical lessons, play games and have a snack.  To this day I can still see that plump grandmotherly woman and her spinster sister who handed us a buttery cookie  as big as a small dessert plate, along with a cup of juice.  (I hated the grape and always wished for the fruity one).  If I smell buttery cookies or fruit juice, I am transported back to being that little girl.

I started attending VBS when I was in first grade, at age 6.  Each year we'd go past the Fellowship Hall and watch as the "big kids", 6th graders all of 12 years old,  busily wove small reed baskets.  It took them all week and I was fascinated by it.  The baskets were part of the lesson on Moses.  How as a baby he was put in a reed basket and placed in the river so he could drift downstream to be discovered in the bull rushes and raised by the King's daughter. 

Every year I mentally counted down, waiting my turn to make a basket.  I wanted to reach into one of those white plastic buckets filled with water, which kept the reeds supple, to begin my own basket.  I thought about how I'd take my time to create a real basket and not the circular mess some of the boys made just to get out of making a basket.  I'd pause in the doorway and watch as childish fingers tried to get the hang of weaving...back and forth, over and under.  To me, it was mesmerizing and I couldn't wait.

When you're a kid, a year is F-O-R-E-V-E-R.  The fact I'd had to wait 6 years only made the reward seem sweeter.  Now that I was a "big kid" of 12 years old, I proudly marched toward that room where reed baskets had been made for years.  Anticipation built as I wondered how large a basket we'd be allowed to create.  I think my little heart probably sped up a little as we walked into that room and....

.....then my heart sank.  We were told, in a no-nonsense-ask-no-questions voice, that making baskets would no longer be offered.  Period.  And no, I have no idea what we did instead because I was so disappointed, my brain refused to finish the entry in that file.  I did find out, years later, that the church elders had decided they'd done the basket thing for too long and needed to shake things up a bit.

Yep, they shook things up all right.  Me.  For years afterward, when any story of Moses came up, inside I was sadly shaking my head.  Last weekend Hubby and I watched, "Exodus:Gods & Kings".  If you've seen it, you know it jumps right in, prior to Ramses II becoming Pharaoh, but including all the plaques as Moses heads out with the slaves across the desert.  There is a brief scene with Moses, his adopted Mother and her servant.  Hubby was raised Catholic, meaning he didn't hear those same stories over and over again like I had, so he questioned why anyone would want to kill the servant.  I reminded him that the servant is actually Moses' sister, who place him in the basket and floated him to freedom. I felt an odd twinge of sadness, but brushed it aside to finish watching the movie.

Seeing Kim's blog post on an artist who creates willow baskets brought that memory, for one brief moment, running to the front with childhood enthusiasm laced with disappointment.  A long forgotten file cabinet drawer slid open and a voice whispered, "That reminds me of Moses' basket.  Like that little reed basket you waited years to make.  Until the grown ups decided it was dumb. Sigh."

And then I smiled.  Because my little girl disappointment grew into a love of handcrafted items...a deep appreciation of items crafted with natural materials, talent and love.  Especially baskets.

I swear if I lived around the corner from Kim, I'd be signing up to take that gentleman's class.  For now, I'm just glad to know someone gets to have that much fun making art...and memories.
 

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