Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Shockingly Pink Shell

There.  That one.  The shell.  That's the one.  She liked picking out the ceramic pieces.  They were bare.  Naked.  Just sitting there.  Ready and waiting for someone's imagination to come along and bring it to life.  Being a mother of eight, she knew a little something about that.

She sat down and turned the shell over, and picking up her scraping tool, her sister began to tell of Aunt Vyla's latest antics and she began to scrape the line left by the shell mold.  Scrape. Scrape. Scrape.  Every so often she'd pause, put the tool down, take her small sponge and dip it into the water bowl that she shared with her sister Anne, wring it to near dryness, and gently rub it along the area she had just scraped smoothing the line away.  Making sure with her finger the line would never be seen again.  She kept alternating between the monotonous tasks of scraping and smoothing.

As she was wringing the sponge once again, Anne said something about Aunt Vyla that grabbed her attention away from her task. And she wasn't careful to wring the sponge completely.  She swiped the base where the mold line had been.  Her recognition of what she'd done was too late.  "God bless America and all the ships at sea," she muttered under her breath.  "What?"  Anne inquired.  "Oh nothing," she replied.  "Go on.  What did Aunt Vyla do?  This time?"  Really, it was something.  Now the shell's base would be lopsided.  The extra water on the sponge had made the fragile greenware bend.  Just a little.  But just enough.  She sighed.  Then she went on to scrape once more.

Having finally smoothed the mold line away, there was only one thing to do before the piece was fired in the kiln.  To etch her initials on the bottom of the shell.  Using her scraping tool, she first scratched an "A".  "Not too bad," she thought.  Almost whimsy with the swirls on the bottom of the letter.  Almost.  Next she scratched a "B" into the soft clay.  Hm.  A wee crooked.  Which just about summed up her relationship with the man who stayed around long enough to share his name with her, to father their 8 children, and to leave once the going got tough.  Then she smiled.  O.K., maybe it was a smirk.  God forgive her.  At least she didn't snort.  This time.  Ladies don't snort.  Well, not in public at least.  Or so her mother had told her.

The next week, her shell was waiting for her at her place at the crafts table.  Scandalously naked.  Waiting for her to clothe it in color.  She'd thought about what colors to use all week.  She'd finally decided on pink and maybe a little turquoise for accent.  As she sat down, she gingerly placed a finger on the rim on the back left-hand side of the shell.  She pressed down and then released it.  Clunk.  Yup.  Lopsided.  She sighed.  As she picked up her brush and dipped it into the pink paint, her sister Anne asked her, "Did you hear what Aunt Vyla did yesterday?"  And as her sister talked about Aunt Vyla, she painted the shell.  Pink.  Actually it was starting to look shockingly pink.  She covered the whole shell in shocking pink paint.  Then sat there waiting for it to dry.  Once dry, she rinsed her brush clean and dipped it in the turquoise paint, and began to paint along the rim of the shell providing some depth and a very necessary break from the shocking pink.

When she entered the room the following week, she instantly saw her shell.  Her very pink shell.  It was hard to miss.  She sat down, dipped her brush into the milky glaze, and began to apply the glaze all over the shell.  As her sister began to retell a story about the neighbors, she wondered, "What?  No stories about Aunt Vyla?"

Three layers of glaze and five stories ~two including Aunt Vyla~ later, she was finally done.  She sat back.  And smiled in approval.  She liked it.  She liked its whole shocking pink and lopsided self.  Next week, she'd come pick it up after its last firing.  

Then Anne interrupted her thoughts, "What are you going to do with another ashtray, Alice?  You don't even smoke.  And its lopsided to boot."

Alice sighed and rolled her eyes heavenward.  Sisters.  She finally replied, "'To each his own,' said the old lady as she kissed the cow, and the old man who peed in the sea to keep the boat from sinking."

Then she snorted.

Note: I have no idea what the story is behind this ceramic piece.  I just know that my Gran, Mary Alice (Truitt) Blacketer, made it, and that she did so after she was married.  I took creative license, but the names are real.  Also there were always stories about Aunt Vyla.  Always.  Further, one of my older sisters taught a ceramics class that I attended when I was younger, so I do know a little something about ceramics.  I did witness on occasion my Gran snorting [and quite unlady-like at that].  Yes, she did use the old-lady-cow-old-man-boat saying.  [You didn't think I made that up, did you?  Even I'm not that creative.]  And yeah, my grandfather was a jerk.  It seems I've got a lot of those. [Snort.]  Anywho, here it is, and I use it to hold my paper clips in my office.  It matches absolutely nothing.  It's worth nothing to most.  And it means the world to me.

Gran's Initials.
The lopsided base.

My Gran ~ Mary Alice (Truitt) Blacketer

© Copyright 2010, Caroline Martin Marshall Pointer


  1. I loved your story -- very entertaining! A wonderful piece of family treasure you have there.

  2. I LOVE IT!!! Remember we ARE cyber sisters when you begin publishing and doing your book tour signings!!!

  3. You really brought your Gran to life with that story - loved it! (Sounds so much like my Mom's family.)

  4. Wonderful story! You have a great gift for story telling and I love that you incorporated known facts into it and summed it up nicely.

  5. Love the characters that come to life in the telling. I think every family has them ....... might as well embrace them!

  6. I love the way you fill out your Gran's interior life in your imagination. Yes I believe her "sayings," because I've heard at least the first one before! I wonder if this is the woman whose husband I'm soon to read about in your revelations about your grandfather . . . guess I'll soon find out. : ))


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