Thursday, May 13, 2010

Three Baskets

When I helped my mother clean out her garage months ago, I found the three baskets that she wove when I was very young. They were faded from age and the bottoms were broken through from years of "tough love". Some of the reeds had begun to rot. I was so sad to these beautiful creations woven with my mother's love and hope destroyed. So I sat down on the floor of the dirty garage and I told my sister, TheFish, the story of the three baskets...

When I was young, my mom was the FunMom. She was a lot younger than most of my friend's moms. You see, I was the first child. Not the third or fourth like my friends. My mom baked cookies and made pine cones into bird feeders using peanut butter and birdseed. She packed yummy snacks with extras for my friends. She was never too tired to paint my toenails or read another story at bedtime.

My mom was the youngest child. Her mom had to work, so she was always too tired to play with mom. My mom had to walk home alone from school. When she was almost a big girl (about 11) my mom was allowed to spend the summers with Aunt Reba and her boyfriend. They lived together in Tennessee with a lot of other people. They had lots of animals, grew their own vegetables and made their own clothes. It was there that my mom learned to weave.

When my mother was pregnant with me, the first child, she wove a baby cradle. (I like to think that while she wove she thought of all of the FunMom stuff we were going to do.  She was probably also scared and hopeful and maybe a little sad... I, of course, don't remember her weaving the cradle, so that part is all conjecture.) It was in this cradle that she laid me when I was carried home from the hospital.

I remember that when she was pregnant with my sister, the third child, she wove again. I was fascinated as she unpacked her weaving supplies. I was proud and scared when she let me drop the stiffly coiled reeds into the hot water to soften them up. I can still hear her saying "Careful, careful, careful". She lifted me up, so that I could see the colored reeds undulate in the boiling water.

I remember my mom sitting Indian Style on her bed, her belly protruding under her dress. She guided my pudgy, clumsy baby fingers with her long, slim pale ones. How I wished for long nimble fingers like hers! Her patience with me was endless. Slowly, slowly our efforts began to take shape.

It wasn't the shape of the cradle, which had once sheltered me and then my brother, the second child. The cradle which was now home to McKenzie, the Cabbage Patch Doll from whom I had gotten my name. Instead, it took the shape of a medium sized basket with pink reeds interspersed and a sturdy handle thin enough for tiny hands to grip. This was followed by a blue basket for my brother and a green one for the new baby in her stomach.

Those quiet afternoons spent weaving with my mother were the calm before the storm. The storm of course being TheFish who came roaring into my life one evening in late November. Nothing has been the same since that day, but I have never forgotten the peace I felt watching my mother create something lovely with her hands.

I still watch my mom's hands sometimes: when she pours wine or gestures as she speaks. Her hands have aged a little, but the fingers are still slim and nimble.

Not too long ago, I leaned over to help my mother with something on her computer. As I looked down I noticed that my hands are now her hands. Long, slim, pale.

I only hope that mine can be as gentle, patient and creative as hers.

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