A Story About Clay and Skepticism

When I was 6 years old, my older sister took a pottery class. We lived in Columbus Ohio at the time. While we did not have a lot of money, there were some community free one-time classes that we were sometimes able to attend. Because we did not have a lot of money, this kind of thing was more of a special experience.

My sister brought a home a bowl from the class. What interested me about this bowl was that it air dried. I had seen videos on PBS about making things out of clay and putting them into the kiln. This was something I had never heard of! I made things out of play-doh but those never dried into anything tangible like a bowl. She told me about her class and explained the clay to me and how it was already dry but what would harden up even more.

Everything that my older sister did was interesting to me. I envied most activities got to do and toys that she got as gifts. This was no exception.

I was in awe. It became an obsession. I watched it in continuous astonishment throughout the day. Most of my brain believed her, but there was a small piece that thought maybe she was mistaken. Or perhaps the teacher was mistaken.

How could something like play-doh turn into a usable object.

I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head. I would play a little bit and then come back to this bowl. I’d touch it softly when no one was looking to see how far along we were on the process.

When you are a child, time goes on forever. This story may have spanned a few days, but because I was younger, I don’t remember exactly the timeline.

What’s important is that I just didn’t think it was hardening and I was beginning to think that one of us had been duped in this situation. I even felt a little bad for my sister. Poor, naive, going into this pottery class so excited to make her masterpiece. The teacher was an art major, but of course as a child, we always know better than anyone else. It was definitely a possibility that she was wrong.

After being warned off of touching it a dozen or so times, over the span of a few days maybe, I lay in bed at night thinking about the bowl. I wanted to believe in this magic, but my belief was fading.

My sister and I had bunk beds. I was on the bottom. She was on the top. I was pretty sure I could sneak out after she was done reading to check on the bowl. I needed to do it on my own without people telling me to stop touching it or to get away from it.

Our bedroom was upstairs right by the staircase. The bowl was downstairs on the dining room table just off of the staircase a bit. I checked on the top bunk to see if my sister was asleep. She was. In the hallway, I listened carefully for my parents. Were they still awake? Not hearing anything, I made my way downstairs. I checked on the bowl again. Finally in peace assessing the masterpiece. Again I was disappointed.

Since no one was around, I decided to test its strength. Pretty sure they would thank me for this later. I picked the bowl up off of the table and raised it high above my head. With force I threw it down on the ground. It made a huge breaking sound because turns out it was dry.

My parents and my sister came down to see what was going on. They looked at me standing guilty by the table and the bowl broken in pieces all over the floor. My sister was devastated. She already saw me as the obnoxious little sister and let me tell you, this did not help things at all.

My parents were so confused. What in the world? Why did you wake up in the middle of the night to come and break your sisters bowl? I didn’t know really how to explain it except with the truth. I wanted to see if it was dry. I don’t remember the rest of what happened. I am sure I was duly punished, but there was no replacing my sisters bowl.

Whenever I complain about my sister being mean to me as a child, this story inevitably comes up along with a few others. But, I can’t blame her. It was pretty weird of me.


Later in life, I was diagnosed with OCD and incidents like this made a lot more sense.


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