Just how many times can you actually scam your adult children? Such a historic moments is easy for a father to remember. The year was 1991. My sons, Steven and David, were converging at Dave’s house for a weekend of golf and relaxation. Unbeknown to them, I had a devious plan in mind that was finally coming together. The scam had been in the making for over a year and I was ready to spring the trap.
David lived in a one of the historic homes in Louisville, KY. Although the house was small, he had converted a four-season porch at the back of the house into a small pottery studio that included a wheel, a work table for wedging the clay, a sink, a kiln, and a few shelves for drying his production. I had not visited the new residence, and David was anxious to show his new studio. Dave was the only one at home when I arrived. That was exactly the way I had dreamed of this happening. I had hoped to play the gag on my potter sons, one at a time.
David showed me through the house but quickly passed to the studio. He had been hard at work throwing some rather elaborate pots with spouts and lids that required a good bit of technique and practice. I noticed bags of clay in one corner and a wet pot was still on the wheel. David had definitely been working earlier that morning. I had seen his work in college studios and art shows, but it was obvious he had improved his technique.
As I looked around, I commented, “You know the more I look at this, I think I could throw a pot. It can’t be that hard. Why don’t you throw a pot and let me watch? I really think I can do that.”
Dave said, “You are so funny Dad. People can’t even center the clay without a lot of hands on instruction. Nobody just sits down and throws a pot. Maybe we should start more elementary by finger pinching a pot. That’s how we start with our elementary school students.” I cringed a forced frown from his intentional putdown, but inside I was smiling more and more.
“Center the clay, what do you mean?” I asked.
“That’s the process of getting clay balanced in the center of the pot so you can lift it into a balanced vessel. Centering is imperative to have all the walls of the pot the same thickness.” Dave answered.
“Well, I think I can do this and would like to give it a try.” I replied.
He smirked with doubt and said, “Then go ahead, this should be fun?”
Most kids imagine that their parents are always in control of situations, so they rally at the sight of a possible stumble. My kids start foaming at the mouth when they see a gotcha moment. It is really a parent/child competitive moment. Dave saw this chance to laugh as his Dad struggled with the frustration of trying to handle a pile of unmanageable dough.
Dave said, “Well at least let me walk you through the steps. I will throw a pot and then you can give it a try.”
So, Dave sat down with the intention of at least giving his Dad some hope of understanding the “in’s and out’s” of a simple pot. I listened carefully and asked for clarification as the lesson continued. Dave chided, “Why don’t I center a ball of clay for you? That way maybe you can at least get something started on this first go around.”
I said gently, “No, I think I’ll give it a shot. It looks pretty simple to me.”
I took my place at the wheel and picked out a piece of wedged clay that Dave had in a plastic bag. From there it became a bit funny, the prof pulled up a chair thinking he would need to help me with hand placement. But I quickly centered the clay and began to raise the pot into a nice cylinder, added a lip, and backed away to admire my pot. David surveyed my pot. He couldn’t believe his eyes and didn’t know what to say. As he struggled to respond, his ego popped out and he said, “Man, I didn’t know I was such a good teacher.”
Just about then Steven arrived. I had asked Dave to let me go through the same process with Steve. The response was just about the same as I created my second pot. It was then I broke the news. “Look guys! I admit I have been taking pottery classes for the last two years. I was so proud. The kids laughed and looked at each other in disbelief of how I had kept this secret for such a long time.
Better yet, they later said, “Dad, we can’t believe it that you would go to this effort to learn what is such a big part of our lives.