I have assumed that none of you want to hear vague details about my frustrations with work. I also had my hair cut this morning, but I sort of did that post already. Today lacked the dramatic flair of my February visit, but the cut is pretty and functional. Not overly interesting.
I was looking at MaggieMay’s pictures (New Kid also has some! Oh, and B*! (I shall weep if a picture of a hamster driving a covered wagon doesn’t appear at some point.) Repressed Librarian is working on her set too!) Anyway, I’m not cool enough to do one of my own, but I did make a confession in Maggie’s comments. Something so shameful and embarrassing – I was shocked to have admitted to it. But I giggled and found my pictures and giggled some more. Then I thought about the shirt Mom had brought when I moved into my house.
“You somehow forgot this at home!” She told me. “I knew you’d really want to keep it with you, so I brought it with me.” I laughed and tossed it somewhere – no idea where it currently is.
But I’ll start from the beginning.
I believe I was still in undergrad – living about 20 minutes away from my parents – when Mom sent an email. She worked with a man whose wife sold Longaberger baskets. Now, I did the requisite eye roll because they’re quite expensive and rather silly in all their baskety glory with the different sizes and colors and uses. But I went with Mom to a party and found myself enchanted by the little woven items. Most of them are a warm, golden color and they have the cutest little golden tag with their names on them! If you’ve ever left a Tupperware party with more plastic containers than you’d ever need (or infatuated with the best little orange peeler ever!), you’ll understand. It’s the wine and snacks and excitement over these items you can only get at this particular party!
Anyway, I had a popcorn basket at this point (that I’d never put popcorn in – the butter could stain the basket!). People at the parties (she’d been to many without me) had told Mom of the factory in Ohio. This woman – Chief Basket Lady – had organized a 3 day bus trip to visit the Mecca of Midwestern baskets. Mom wanted to go. She wanted me to come with her.
I said no. I vividly remember calling her and giggling together over the very idea of me going to see baskets for 3 days. Silly Mom.
Several months later, staring at a t-shirt with a basket and flowers painted on it in mute confusion, I sat by the window on a bus headed east to Ohio.
“I’m not wearing this.” I said with grave seriousness, looking around at the women who were wearing last year’s version. It had a rose rather than daisy in the basket. And the ribbon was red rather than blue.
“Oh!” The woman across the aisle said. “You have a t-shirt too! Good! Maureen paints them all by hand!”
Mom and I made our politely impressed faces and I waited until the sweet woman's attention was directed elsewhere before dissolving into laughter. Wiping the tears from my cheeks, I turned to face Mom and saw she was struggling similarly. It should have been a clue that we weren’t going to fit in very well on this trip.
We watched a movie on the way there, but I noted the rain as we got closer to Frazeysburg. We were supposed to do some outdoor event on Day 1. But the rain had altered our plans. I dug out my itinerary with some concern. I like to follow plans – it bugs me when things change – throws off the whole basket trip, if you will. So it was determined that we’d see the home office that afternoon and spend all day at the Homestead on Day 2.
“All day?” I looked at Mom and noticed she was a bit worried too. But she shrugged and smiled and we squinted out the window through the rain at the giant basket coming into view.
“Wow.” I breathed. “That’s a … big freaking basket.”
“I think it’s … nice.” Mom said, and we laughed together again. Still chuckling, we dashed through the rain – the only ones in shirts without baskets painted on them.
The office, to be fair, was quite beautiful. So we wandered around, looking at the basket collections, viewing some pictures of its construction, trying to talk to some of the basket ladies but not having much to say – we simply didn’t know the basic basket etiquette.
We were reading down a list of facts when an employee – tour guide, perhaps – approached.
“The handles are heated.” I informed Mom. “I wonder why.”
“They would get quite heavy if they froze.” Tour guide said sweetly.
“Oh!” I turned around, and Mom and I complimented the beautiful building. Tour guide looked at us expectantly so I twisted my mouth and tried to think of a question.
“So… Are they functional?”
She looked confused, so I elaborated. “The handles up there. What do they do?”
I looked at Mom when that failed to get a response, and shot her an indignant look when, rather than helping me explain, she began backing away and trying to look busy. I returned my attention to Tour guide.
“So they’re heated. To avoid icing over in the winter. But they’re just decorative? Really?”
“What exactly do you want them to do?” She asked, starting to require some de-icing herself.
I arched an eyebrow. There was no reason to get rude and defensive over these useless handles. “I guess I would like them to create solar energy. I mean, they’re up there anyway. Might as well get something from them.”
And I watched her walk away. I wandered over to Mom, who was resting against a wall as she laughed. “Perhaps we won’t ask many questions.” She offered.
We wandered through the Homestead the next day in about 2 hours. You can’t buy the baskets there. A selection of three is offered, but all others must be ordered at the Longaberger parties. So there is clothing, home décor, toys, pretty much anything you could think of. All in a basket theme. Except for the food. They had all sorts of spreads and dips and utensils on one section.
“Peach salsa?” Mom asked, poking at the sample with a chip.
“Hmmm.” I said, wandering aimlessly.
“Try it.” She ordered with a grin.
“No chance.” I smiled back. “Though it’s probably not bad.”
Mom and I found some basket books and sat down in a basket chair and read for many hours, waiting for the tour group to go back to the hotel. We eventually got bored with the basket knowledge and went to watch the workers make baskets. That was actually fascinating and we stood there for about an hour.
“I wish we could make some baskets.” I told Mom as we leaned on a railing watching the workers below us. “I’m so bored.”
She nodded and we went outside to look at the flowers planted in their big basket planters. I shook my head when I noticed my basket t-shirt then refolded my arms over it.
“Katie.” Mom scolded, then broke into a smile. “Maureen painted that by hand. Plus, the whole group has them on. You would have felt out of place without one!”
“Yes, Mom. Not wearing the basket shirt would have been quite embarrassing.”
Day 3 found us in Dresden. “Basket Village, USA” I was exhausted, tired of being on the bus, tired of looking at baskets.
“I don’t think they sell baskets here either.” Mom informed me.
“What the hell?” I asked, getting impatient. “So what are we going to do here all day?”
There was shopping – basket accessories, fake baskets (because apparently if it’s not Longaberger, it’s a pseudo-basket at best) There’s another giant basket there – we looked at it. Then we bought some tiny baskets – one of them holds toothpicks in my kitchen. We walked and walked – down pretty streets with baskets for decoration, into a little diner for a light lunch, then called it off. We gave up, finding a bench and sitting down.
“Are you starting to hate baskets?” I asked, turning to see Mom nod. I laughed, trying to find some joy in watching the women exclaim and coo over the basket liners and covers and tiny baskets and big baskets and retired baskets. It’s a sweet hobby and they were lovely ladies. We just didn’t reach their level of obsession over the woven items.
An older woman stopped beside our bench, and we looked over at her and smiled.
“You found a place in the shade.” She noted, looking tired.
I scooted toward Mom and asked her if she’d like to sit down.
She did and I tiredly stayed silent.
“Are you enjoying Dresden?” Mom asked her, leaning forward to see around me.
“It’s hot.” The woman said, and I nodded.
“I’m tired.” She continued, so I kept nodding.
“And these fucking baskets are everywhere.” She said and Mom and I were startled into laughter.
“Aren’t you sick of baskets?” She asked after she’d stopped laughing with us.
“I just want to go home.” I said. “But our group won’t leave for another hour.”
“Ah.” She nodded sympathetically. “My daughter will probably be here for another 2.”
Mom and I finally returned to the bus, climbing aboard amidst the chatter of spectacular shopping finds. I snuggled into my seat while Chief Basket Lady went down the aisle collecting gifts for some game we were supposed to play.
“We didn’t buy anything.” Mom informed her when she reached us. We’d been anti-basket-ladies for most of the trip, remaining alone and laughing. So it was hardly shocking that we weren’t going to play the game.
It was, however, mildly entertaining as we began the trek back west toward home. Watching people get gifts then trade. The predominant item offered? Peach salsa. I rested my head on Mom’s shoulder and watched, smiled and thought about the t-shirt I’d tucked in her suitcase rather than my own.
We promised we'd never take a bus trip again. But I have fond memories of our basket trip, regardless of our poor behavior. I also added a Dresden basket, a hanging basket I won as a door prize, and a Woven Memories basket to my collection. Strangely appropriate, yes?