At the age of almost 28, I learned recently that my father and I are incredibly similar. Realizing that—or rather, having it pointed out to me and subsequently confronting my therapist about it— was all at once emotional and satisfying and provided me with a huge amount of relief. Not to say that I’d ever questioned my mother’s fidelity, but it’s quite validating to be able to pinpoint exactly where some major personality traits come from. All that is to say, my father and I are now taking a ceramics class together at the 92nd Street Y.
I previously—and maybe currently—had no interest in ceramics or anything else that reminded me of my fourth grade failures. My father and I had vaguely talked in the past about taking a cooking class together, but due to our crazy schedules and lack of a joint secretary, it never happened. A few months ago I moved into Manhattan from Queens and suddenly he and I were both living on the 6 train line, and he suggested a ceramics class at the 92nd Street Y, conveniently located at 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue.
This class is a bigger experience than I had expected. I’ve taken a number of writing classes in the city, and while they do provide good structure and guidelines for writing, the actual act of writing happens when you go home and chain yourself to the desk or, if you’re like me, it doesn’t happen. This class, on the other hand, provides tangible results—for better or worse. I’m far from advanced and I already have a new butter dish, a bowl, and a cup in my apartment. Next week I’ll be finishing off my plate and my mug. It’s remarkable how fulfilling it is to get your hands dirty and to make significant progress on a project in a three-hour time frame. Every week I am amazed again at how the class consumes such forgotten parts of my brain, not to mention my arm muscles, that it is impossible to think about all of the stresses from other parts of daily life.
I have the added benefit of getting to spend the time with my father, which has been full of its own surprises. We have strikingly similar reactions to the class and how satisfying it is, and the result is high quality time together. It’s also fascinating to be in that kind of setting with someone who has never, to my knowledge, admitted that he doesn’t know how to do something. He’s not that great at ceramics; he kind of just does what he wants! He’s even a bit of class clown. We had class on Valentine’s Day, and the following happened:
Teacher: You have some clay on your face.
My Father (with a smirk): I know. That’s how Nora’s mom is going to know that I was really at ceramics class on Valentine’s Day.
I could have written that line!
The 92nd Street Y offers a wide array of classes, and not all of them center on crafting boxes and bowls for your family’s birthday presents next year. For the people out there who are more capable than I am of being productive on their own, there are writing classes. The Y also offers classes in dancing, singing, food and wine, languages, and even parenting, to name a few.
Truth be told, I would not have taken this ceramics class if my father hadn’t suggested it. But the experience alone, aside from spending the time with my father, is so satisfying that I would hesitate to rule out any type of class in the future. I come in at 7 p.m. on Monday nights, collect my works in progress and continue right where I left off. Our teacher does demonstrations every week, and sometimes I start a new project based on that. I can honestly say, though, that from 7 p.m. when I lock my cell phone in a locker and put my apron on, until 10 p.m. when I do the opposite, I think of nothing but what is happening in the room that I’m in (and how many clay pieces my mother is going to see on Christmas morning). I had no experience, as I said, and even less confidence in my abilities, but not once have I felt self-conscious about myself as a ceramicist, or left in a clay-lurch by my teacher.
If you get the opportunity, check out the list of classes on the 92nd Street Y website (http://www.92y.org/) and take a class in something you never thought of before, or something you’ve always wanted to try. If you’re lucky enough to have your father live exactly 66 blocks south of you, invite him to join you. And finally, try Rizzo’s for a couple of slices before or after class on the northwest corner of 93rd Street and Lexington. Tell them the father/daughter duo from Monday nights that favors the buffalo chicken pizza sent you.