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TERRANCE FRANK LAZAROFF, CD, BFA

Life Begins

Ty Yung closed the door quietly. The messenger had just left to fetch old woman Han. Ty knew he had to do something to ensure the well being of his deep love. She went into labour just as their day in the workshop ended. They had worked extra hard these past few weeks to produce sufficient stock to provide Flower the time needed to be away from the workshop, when the baby arrived. Now was the time. Ty was worried.

 

He remembered the men laughing at him when he first told them that Flower was with child. They were poking jokes at him about his responsibility and how he was now going to find out what reliability was all about. “Remember,” Chang said, “Every time it opens its mouth you have to put something into it and then after a while, you will get it back, but it won’t smell very nice.” Although he was the butt of their laughs, he listened to them when they told him how crucial it was that the child was given an appropriate name ensuring long life and prosperity also to bring honour to the family. He couldn’t believe it yet. He was going to be a father. Now was the time. Ty was worried.

 

Ty crossed the courtyard, the sun still high in the sky. He climbed three stone steps and stopped in front of a worn, weather beaten door. Ty took a breath and softly called through the door. “Master, it is time.” The old man did not answer, but he could be heard getting off his old bamboo-sleeping chair. “Is that you Ty?” he asked, as he opened the door. His face distorted from squinting into the bright light of the late afternoon sun. He had been taking a nap during the high heat. His white hair was mussed and his face tanned and leathered. The deep lines of age grew out from around his dark eyes, making his skin look like folded canvas. Whiskers dotted his chin and his mouth showed the gaping holes that once held teeth. His body, lean and gaunt and wet with sweat was losing its battle with gravity. He wore a gray, dingy loincloth that barely covered his private parts. He was struggling, holding on the doorsill as he played with his foot sandals.

 

Ty answered in the affirmative, trying not to show the anxiety and worry that he felt. “Have you sent for old woman Han?” the old man asked. Ty answered yes. “Good,” the old man said, “Then there is not much we can do now but wait and see.” The master reached for his work robes, dressed, and gently pushed Ty aside, stepped out over the door stoop and moved across the courtyard towards the room where life was about to begin. Ty followed alongside, quiet and in thought. He was trying to keep it together. He wanted to be calm, but his mind was screaming for him to do something. “Should we do anything while we wait?’ He quietly asked. The master sensed his stress but did not answer. He just kept on walking. When he arrived at the entrance to Ty’s room he paused, waited a minute and then turned to Ty and said, “There will be a lot of pain in the next few hours, maybe days. Be calm, be patient, wait and don’t show your emotions. This is a natural happening, but if you show fear, Flower will fear, as well. What will happen, will happen. We can only help the new one, once it arrives. Flower will cry out in pain. Hold her hand and comfort her as much as you can. Listen to the old woman, Han and do what she asks without question.” He paused. Ty waited for the old man to say something else. The master then he turned, opened the weathered door, and entered the small room. Ty followed.

 

The light of the late afternoon pursued them into the room. It wasn’t much but, the young couple was extremely pleased with their humble quarters. The room was quiet during the evening, and cool in the heat of the day. The walls and floors were constructed of rammed adobe. A small rice paper covered window allowed daylight to enter. The rays of light pushed through the dust particles that floated gently, moving with the currents of air. In the darkened corner of the room, a small oil lamp cast a warm glow on the beautiful face of Flower. Her eyes looked at them with confidence. She showed no fear. She was in control. “Has old woman, Han, arrived?” she inquired. Ty responded “no, but she should be here soon.” “Good,” Flower said. Just then she stiffened, bent a bit forward away from the wall that supported her and started to breath in quick, short breaths. The older women who had already given birth told her, that this was what she must do. Flower accepted the severe contractions positively. She had told herself over and over that she would not let pain discourage her. She was ready. Even with this confidence, she worried implicitly that there would be problems with the birth. Flower wanted the first child to be healthy. She also wanted a boy. Flower could hear the old women telling her to work right up to the day of arrival the baby. They said it would make the child healthy and of course guarantee that it would be the boy that would bring security to the couple in their old age. Flower was not terribly worried about old age yet. She had so much more life to live, and she was going to make Ty happy and give him lots of children. Old age was not a part of her plan. The pain subsided, and she breathed more easily. "A boy would be the perfect gift to give Ty," she thought.

 

The master crossed the small room, bent and placed his hand on the belly of Flower. He was checking for the placement of the baby’s head. He could see that the water had broken and that there was certainly going to be a delivery. He had seen lots of children come into his workshop. He welcomed them with open arms, as he knew that the children would grow and become part of the labour force. He needed workers to assist in the pottery. There was a greater demand on the factory ever since it was designated an imperial kiln. The emperor was demanding more porcelain, and this workshop was firing the Zen kiln almost every moon. Flower stiffened again. “That was fast,” the master said, “means the birth is not going to be long. We must prepare as much as possible for its arrival.” He told Ty to go to the main building and look in the large chest that was kept in the meeting room underneath the portrait of the general. There, he would find some cloth that was soft and warm. There would also be some large sea sponges and a leather kit containing sewing instruments and silk thread. Ty hesitated, and then asked, “What about the lock?” The master responded quickly, “just pull on it and it will open. Now go.” Ty didn’t want to leave, but he had to listen to his master. This man had been through it before. Just as he turned to go the master stopped him and added, “Bring some baijiu as well.” Ty quickly pointed out that Flower did not drink, the master answered, “It is not for her, it is for us.” Ty left, gently closing the door behind him.

 

Ty felt better outside the room, standing in the bright sunlight. He felt relieved, but he didn’t know why. He quickly crossed the court yard this time he noticed that the sun was starting to make the long shadows and that a slight breeze had started to caress the trees and plants. He had to pass the main entrance and enter the long hallway that led to the meeting room. His thoughts moved with him. It took a long time for him to have the authority to walk this hallway.

 

He remembered the first time he came to this place. He was curious as to what he would find. He was about seven years old. That was when he first met the General, and it was also the first time that he had spoken to him. “Who are you?” the General asked the seven years old. Ty remembered how he was startled; he hadn’t noticed the man standing there when he came running into the hall. He remembered coming to a sudden stop. He almost ran into him. He looked up to see a well-dressed man; so tall that Ty thought he would fall backwards looking up at him. At first he could only see the man's chin, the rest of the face hidden in the shadows. Again the general asked, “Who are you?” His voice showed annoyance. Ty felt trapped. The light entering the hall made it difficult to determine the owner’s expression, but the voice was enough to tell Ty that the owner of the voice was a reserved, gentle but stern person. “I am Ty,” he answered. “Yung, Ty, Son of Yung Gandau.” “What are you doing here?” The general asked. “I don’t know, Ty responded. “I just wanted to see what was in here.” The general knelt lower and moved into the view. Ty then saw that a large brown leather patch of cowhide covered the left side of the man’s face. It ran from the bottom of his chin, up over his left eye and wrapped around to the back of the head. Half of the general’s face was missing. He had no ear. How strange, Ty thought. Could he hear? He asked himself. “In that case,” the general said, “I think you should go now. Your father may be looking for you, and we have business here.” Ty noticed the other men that were in the room, looking at him. Some were smiling other were showing impatient looks. Rising up, the general placed his hand on Ty’s shoulder. "Come with me." he said," escorting Ty back down the hall to the door. Stopping at just inside the entrance the General bent down, placing both hands upon Ty's shoulders. He said, “I will invite you the next time you enter this hall. Until then, you will not come in again. Do you understand?” Ty looked up, seeing the face of the general in the light of day, and he asked, “Does it hurt?” The General rose quietly, gently nudging Ty out. Ty turned to look back, just in time to see the door close.

 

As years passed, Ty did receive an invitation from the General to enter the hall. He had been invited on many occasions these past few years. He learned that the general was the owner of the factory and that he received this award from the emperor because he had fought so valiantly for the family of the royal house. Stories were told that the general was severely wounded in a battle where a thousand men went to their deaths. He recovered and was honoured particularly for his sacrifice. Ty also discovered that the General was a kind and compassionate person who took care of his workers. Ty’s father had always had kind words about the man. He had gained the loyalty of this small group of potters. They worked hard to ensure his production quotas were met. It was the General that gave permission to Ty to take Flower as his wife. It was in this chamber that he held his wedding reception.

Ty shook his head.  He came back to why he was in the hall at this time.  Ty saw the large chest.  he walked across the room, kneeled and pulled down on the lock.  It opened.  He did see the blow that struck him.

ABOUT Terrance

photo of myselfTerrance is a retired Canadian Armed Forces Logistic Officer who traded his military uniform for a potter's wheel, when he retired in 1991.

Terry is presently working out of his studio, located in Longueuil, (St-Hubert,) Quebec, Canada.  You can find out more about him  here.

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