Prompted by Paint

Piet Mondrian

I must have been about nine the first time I visited New York City.  We lived in Washington DC and Nana, my world -travelling grandmother, just back from Egypt, was laying over in New York on her way home.  My family of four drove up to New York for a flying visit.  Nana was my version of Auntie Mame– playful, smart, eccentric, and interested in me!  I still have my gold charm bracelet with its tiny pyramid and sphinx.  She gave the best presents ever.

First stop the Empire State Building. I remember the long ride up.  We had to change elevators to reach the windy observation deck. Daddy held his hat, Mom clutched her head scarf, but I let the wind whip my hair around.  My dad had told us all about the workers who built the tower without safety ropes –lots of them were Indians because their courage and sense of balance let them work great heights.  I longed to see one.

Piet Mondrian left New York a couple of years before I got there.   His Broadway Boogie Woogie looks like the birds-eye view of Manhattan he might also have seen from the top of Empire State Building.  Tiny squares represent cars, bigger blocks are skyscrapers.  The the white spaces are anonymous blocks of lower  ordinary buildings.  Best of all he captures the vibrancy of those city streets.  His painting stirs the same excited anticipation within me that I still feel every time I visit New York.

ancestor visit

city streets, a high tower

central park in bloom


This prompt crafted by Kim M. Russell for Haibun Monday

Roger Bannister

This entry was posted in haibun, Memoir, Poetry, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Prompted by Paint

  1. Lillian says:

    I love that you shared a bit of your childhood with us. Oh….I think many of us have a favorite aunt or perhaps a grandma who is our Auntie Mame….love this comparison and the personal details you’ve shared!

  2. Frank Hubeny says:

    The thought of working on such a building even with safety protection makes me realize how much I fear heights.

  3. kim881 says:

    Thank you, Christine, for satisfying my love of personal anecdotes with your haibun! I enjoyed the portrait of your Nana, especially as a ‘version of Auntie Mame’. Your description of the elevators in the Empire State Building brought back my own memory – I was terrified, but I too enjoyed the wind on the observation deck. I like the inclusion of history in the story about the workers, which reminds me of the famous black and white photographs – health and safety would have a field day if anyone tried that now. Mondrian’s painting does look like the birds-eye view of Manhattan he might have seen, although Central Park blooming would have been much clearer with fewer skyscrapers.

  4. Beverly Crawford says:

    Your story was very entertaining. And haiku leaves us in Central Park in bloom. Nice

  5. Ali Grimshaw says:

    It sounds like this artwork brought a happy memory back to life for you. I enjoyed the vision of your world traveling aunt.

  6. rothpoetry says:

    I love your story of visiting New York. I have never been there. Sounds like an exciting place to be.
    I been to the top of tall buildings. the view from the top is spectacular. Your Haibun lays it out very one!

  7. memadtwo says:

    I’ve been to the top of the Empire State building a few times…it’s always an amazing view! I like your speculation of Mondrian going up to see the view as well. (K)

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