Basket Case

“That is the ugliest piece of pottery I have ever seen!” My ceramics teacher glanced at the basket I held in front of me as he turned on his heel to talk to the next student.

The comment was brief, brisk, and cruel. My beautiful woven clay Easter basket with bright, cheerful yellows and pinks and baby blues sat in my hands exactly the way I wanted it. I envisioned it stuffed with overflowing green Easter grass, some hand-painted eggs, and my mom’s smile on Easter morning.

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Instead, I headed toward the paints to select every angry color I could find. Metallic blacks and browns haphazardly brushed onto every crevasse covering the pale pastels. I wanted to keep painting repulsive red, grungy green, bitter blue. My vision smashed by one sentence, as if it were a bowl tipped casually to a cement floor, broken into a thousand shards.

I no longer cared about my basket or the class or the teacher. I would be a high school graduate in a few short months and told myself I would never look back again.

The next day, my creation sat next to all the others as students picked through the various pieces to find their own designs. It wasn’t as ugly as I had hoped. There was a copper shimmer that caught the light and a reflective nickel that created movement if you tipped the basket left or right.

“Much better,” the teacher said as I, once again, held the basket in my hands.

Maybe my teacher wanted me to be an artist. Maybe he hoped that I wanted to be an artist. Maybe all I wanted was an easy class to while away the time prior to the next chapter of my life.

For years, the basket sat on a shelf in my parent’s guest bathroom, the perch it received after I presented it to Mom on Easter morning. It had never been filled with eggs dipped in happy colors. To me, it was filled with a reminder that words have power. They have the power to scorn as well as the power to shine.

My parents no longer have that house, and I no longer have that basket. But if I did, I’d fill it with my collection of ceramic Easter eggs, each lovingly made, each with a craftsman’s signature. My basket was designed to hold pretty things, not painful words.

That gives me an idea…maybe I should sign up for a pottery class.

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