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Mama is short and slim and she wears jeans. Her hair is long and black and braided, like the Indians on TV. Her teeth are very white and when she smiles, her eyes disappear, like mine do when I smile. I don’t have hair like Mama, but I hope that it might change, because I’m still growing.
Every day Mama sits in the little workshop on the terrace on the other side of the courtyard. It smells of fresh earth after a rainfall. There is a small oven near the door that crackles away in the winter. Mama sits at the potter’s wheel, and slaps a big clump of brown clay onto the metal wheel and then the wheel spins and spins around and I’m scared the clay will fly off and hit the wall, but Mama’s slim hands hold it tight and when she lifts her hands off, there is a perfectly round blob of clay. Then she pushes her fingers down in the middle, pulls up the clay on the side, and within minutes there’s a vase, or a pot, or a bowl.
Mama shows me how to make a bowl by rolling the clay into lots of small sausages and then I stack them on top of each other, make it round, then smooth over the gaps, and finished! I’m making an ashtray for Papa, and Mama shows me how to cut little leaves and a rose blossom to stick on the side for decoration. When she has made so many pots and bowls and kegs, she dips them all into a big bowl with a liquid that makes them look shiny. It’s a precious liquid, because you can only buy it in West Germany. After they dry, Mama sits in the kitchen into the night and paints them with shapes, and flowers and lines in different colours. Her lines are always straight. And then she puts them in the big oven, where they get “burned”. At first, I didn’t understand why she wants to burn them after all that work, but after many, many hours when her and Papa open the door of the large oven, a great heat comes out of it, much hotter than when you open it to take out a cake. Mama and Papa are always very careful when they open the door. I still don’t know that it’s because it can all go wrong, and the many lovely clay things could be destroyed. But they all come out ok. They are smooth and colourful and the room is very warm filled with a soft tingling sound, as if the bowls and kegs were whispering, as they cool down.
Mama and Papa often get up before it gets light and load the car with all the clay things and then they are gone all day and I’m always worried that something might happen and they won’t come back. But they always do, and they’re smiling and they always bring me something.
published 15 December 2011