Miriam Finds Her Place

Miriam, a tall, graceful, physically beautiful young sixteen-year old girl, was very attractive to her classmates.  She was skillful in accenting her long lashes with mascara which made her light brown eyes startlingly lovely.  She was always meticulously groomed, her skin velvety and flawless, her lips rosy and soft looking.  Her nails were done regularly by her mother’s manicurist.

But her conversation was shallow and superficial; her comments about other people always critical.  She felt lonely and detached, but had no idea why.  At home she was constantly reminded by her mother that a young lady’s duty was to be pretty, charming and well-mannered.  Because the family had household help, there seemed to be little for her to do except look at TV and leaf through fashion magazines.

She was an average student with no apparent deep interest in any subject.  In the ninth grade she had wanted to study pastel painting, but her mother was instantly critical of the “messiness” of it.  Miriam placed her pastel crayons neatly in their box.  Hid them in the bottom drawer of her dresser and gave up painting.

Her father worked long hours in a small business with a lifelong friend.  He supported them comfortably.  Although her mother enjoyed a pleasant social life, she sometimes complained that she had “married beneath her.”“Whatever that means,” Miriam would think.

On Sundays when mother and daughter went to church, her father would pursue his only recreation–gardening.  He grew vegetables and herbs in a small greenhouse, that he built himself.  Without knowing why, Miriam felt discouraged from participating.

Her home was in a valley some distance from a small hill and on the other side of a stream.  She had been warned many times by her mother not to go up the hill because it was rocky, dirty, and dangerous with no secure roadway.  “You could slip and hurt yourself or ruin your fingernails.”

One Saturday afternoon, on a whim, while her mother took her beauty nap, Miriam decided to see the top of the hill for herself.  Secretly donning her jogging suit, kneepads, and sneakers, wearing her father’s gardening gloves to protect her nails, she went out the back door quietly, but not locking it.  At first, all went well. Then around a turn halfway up, she saw a small plateau. As she stood awestruck by the view, the sky began to darken.  Too late she remembered the weather prediction of rain. In panic, she looked around for shelter.

What a surprise!  Was that a cave?  She ran towards it.  A few feet in she was near a heavy door about seven feet high and five feet wide.  She picked up a rock and knocked.  The door opened outward slowly to reveal a large, circular living space.  The woman who pushed the door, was a head shorter than Miriam, and had straight black hair and facial features of an American Indian.  The floor was covered with slabs of slate with hard packed mud between the spaces.

All around the room, on the floor and on makeshift shelves on the walls, were pots of all shapes, sizes, colors and designs!  Squatted on the floor, was a second woman and a young girl about twelve years old.  What were they doing? Miriam felt a thump in her chest, she could hardly breathe.  Overcome with excitement, she ran across the room talking not aware of removing her gloves,  “What are you doing?”  Show me how to do that."

Some two or three hours later, with dirty hands and smudges over her face, she slowly entered through the back door. Were her parents arguing?  They never argued because her father would not respond in kind. As they became aware of her, “no, no, no” her mother started, but Miriam spoke faster, “I want to do it. I want to turn the wheel, I want to make pottery with all kinds of designs.  I love it. I have to do it.”  As her mother tried to “no, no” again, her father interrupted in a voice Miriam had never heard before. “Althea, she’s not a mannequin; she’s not a Barbie doll!  She will get a pottery wheel and all the other materials she needs.” Then softly as he strode towards his garden, said, “I will build her a studio.”