Haibun: Birthday Party




(“Hummers” …watercolor, with gold leaf, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003)

Over at dversepoets pub, it is Haibun Monday, and Bjorn is presenting the challenge of haiga.  A painting or illustration that relates to the haiku written.  Though this painting of mine might seem scant in relating to the Haibun/haiku below….It does.  At least to me.  The Haibun describes a father’s love, the wars of childhood, and the painting?  His three children: little Hummers which he used to call us. For those who don’t know birds….Hummers are fierce.  They are tiny but survive because of their tenacity.  Sort of like children when we have to.

Lady Nyo


Haibun: Birthday Party

Mean, spoiled Nancy Madsen was having her 10th birthday party. Nancy was always turned out in pretty dresses, with petticoats and a clean face. She had blond curly hair, like Shirley Temple, except without the talent. She was the youngest of three, so her mother took special care with her. My mother? Not so much. I was left to my own devices, and those weren’t always the best. There was no fairy godmother hovering over me.

I was sitting on a stool, stupidly too near the drop off onto the road beneath. I was taking a back seat, trying to disappear. Nancy’s mother didn’t like me much. Her dog, Freckles, a Dalmatian, had bit me in the eye the year before. She blamed me for ‘disturbing his nap.’ Back then there were no lawsuits or doctor visits for this ‘small stuff’. You had iodine slapped on the wound and went back to play. I remember being uneasy about her party, as my mother picked the gift herself. I didn’t know what she had wrapped up in gift paper. I was hoping it wasn’t my Betsy-Wetsy doll.

Nancy floated around the tables, playing birthday diva. She decided to sit on me. A big mistake for a lot of reasons, two of which I remember: One, I was deathly afraid Nancy would tip us over the cliff, and two….she was fat. I thought I wouldn’t survive this. I couldn’t breathe.

So I bit her. In the back. Nancy leaped up screaming and a general riot broke out. I couldn’t get to why I had bit her, but by the faces of the adults I knew I was no longer welcome.

My father ordered me to the car. I went, weeping, sitting in the back of the old Studebaker station wagon. I was very worried, mostly about the anger from my mother as soon as she heard what her only daughter had done. Not that she liked any of the adults at the party, and it was generally mutual, but it clearly was another failing of a daughter she really didn’t care for.

My father approached the car, his face beaming. “We won’t tell your mother about this. Let’s go get some Breyer’s ice cream.”

This wasn’t the first time my father stuck up for me. We were in a secret war against my mother until he died. He was my best friend though I didn’t appreciate it then. I do now.


Childhood is tough

Adults are the enemy

Kids fodder for wars

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017






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53 Responses to “Haibun: Birthday Party”

  1. Pleasant Street Says:

    You tell a great story. I have a few of those myself that are awkward and still seem shocking at my age. Nice your dad stuck up for you.Childhood can be brutal and we need allies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Yep! Childhood can be brutal, and back then, though there was a cover of ‘politeness’….the brutality still broke out and shamed or hurt. Adults were sadistic back then, too. How in HELL did we ever survive? Our parents (mine, at least) were still recovering from WWII and they had their own demons to fight. We come along, and they are overburdened I think. Yep, I encourage you strongly to write down your own stories….I focus on the sadness of my childhood, but it couldn’t be all that only. Except it looms into adulthood….follows us through life, to the end of life I believe. I realize now that I was trying to survive my father’s drunken kindness and my mother’s sober malice. At 96 she hasn’t changed a bit. That is sad, but we don’t have to follow suit. If anything…writing all this stuff down (Memories of a Rotten Childhood)…has helped me understand that we are different and don’t have to repeat history with our own children. That is growth to me! Thanks, Pleasant Street. I would love to read your own stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. charliezero1.wordpress.com Says:

    This story I relate a lot. It’s powerful and emotionally driven.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Charlie! First, thank you for reading and leaving such a kind comment. Secondly, I believe that our prose, poetry, etc…when emotionally driven….connects with the stories, lives of others. And that is where I believe poetry, etc…has its power. When our cobbled words can evoke a ‘a ha!’ in others….when our poetry can effect a sort of universality…then we are hitting a good mark. Our species’ experience isn’t too different on the whole, and I believe this is why sometimes our stories are able to reach out and relate to other experiences. Thank you, again, Charlie. I have no idea what the prompt over at dverse is today, but I do know it’s Haibun Monday….so I don’t know if this will be accepted for their haibun challenge. I don’t know if I will link up, but I am glad you read this piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. charliezero1.wordpress.com Says:

    Stories & experiences lead one to self discovery of their own path and lives.

    You’ve hit a mark and the world needs to read your message.


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Well, Charlie….I agree with your first sentence. It becomes clearer, too, with age.
    However, the world will ignore my message, and that’s how it goes! LOL! I’ve learned one thing in life, being a writer: you can give advice all day long, but people need to slough through the mud of their own existence before anything of ‘truth’ sticks. Thanks, Charlie.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. charliezero1.wordpress.com Says:

    You are right. Advice is whether one takes it or not. It’s a decision one can make to better change themselves or awake up from their sleep of reality to face.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ladynyo Says:

    Yep, Charlie. You get to an age where you are tired of constantly holding hands with people who act stupid. Then you have to choose.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) Says:

    I remember dreading birthday parties as a kid… for one I hated drinking soda… I couldn’t bear the carbonized water… I loved my softdrinks still… and then I always felt a bit outside too… but never never was I crushed by a fat spoiled brat… love love your painting.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! yes she was…but there is so much more story to this! Nancy moved away, to Georgia! And I was living here for over 20 years when for some reason she contacted me. How? I haven’t a clue. But she hadn’t improved in the 40 years since! She was still the bully. LOL! Some people never change. Glad you noticed the painting, Bjorn. Most poets, readers don’t. Every painting on my blog is mine….and after 30 years, I have plenty to work with. LOL! My father was so wonderful….fighting the demons of WWII and all other things that adults then had to fight….but this event cemented our bond. I was always hopeful for birthday parties, but out in the countryside? they were few and far between. I was always the outsider with the ‘in crowd’, High School was even worse. But we find our stride and even if it is late in life, we have lots to accomplish. IF we ignore the damn bullies. Children and adults!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. paul scribbles Says:

    Tales of childhood provide such fertile ground for our writing. Loved this story and all that it carries within it. Beautiful illustration too.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. frankhubeny Says:

    Nice art work. It is unusual for someone to both draw and write. I am sorry to hear about your childhood and I agree that adults can be bullies as well as children. I am glad to hear your father came through all of this as your friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Paul. I definitely agree…childhood gives a deep well of stories for poetry, etc. Sometimes too much. Nancy Madsen lost the fat, and looked (in later years) like a model. LOL! But she still deserved the bite. I was talking to another artist about my paintings and why people just past by them. I think they are too academic and people think I have gotten them off the internet. I am self-taught, and I trained myself in English watercolor, but I do love abstract expressionism. Love certain periods of Picasso, Braque, etc. but I think my paintings are seen as ‘old-foogie’. LOL!


  14. paul scribbles Says:

    I don’t see your paintings as academic in any way at all. They have much more about them than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. ladynyo Says:

    thanks, Frank. Geez, I never thought it unusual to both draw and write. It seems so natural. One gives over to the other….no Chinese walls between them. I was also a trained musician. Now that is even harder. LOL! Life gives lots of choices, neh? And yes….adults can be damn bullies (my mother is 96 and fits the profile…LOL…where does she get the energy????) My father was my best friend but I didn’t realize it, and his impact until he died…at 74, so young…in 1989. I am still mourning him today.


  16. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Paul! I think because for so many years…the trend here was abstract expressionism…and mine certainly didn’t fit that at all. LOL! I love, love, love English Landscape and have studied it closely. Went to U. of Edinburgh in 1990…and one day in class….(sculpture) made me get up and roam the countryside. I did this or a month , and painted in the rain. Then I was painting in oils….but bought the most beautiful wc in England and Scotland…along with an easel and brushes I still use. Birds (of prey and others) are something that I struggle to ‘give life’ to….my motto is “Attitude, not feathers!” LOL! I painted a few wc for some falconers in Saudia Arabia….they have beautiful birds…and they seemed to appreciate these paintings. Of course, you get very close to your birds. but they really rule the roost!


  17. Grace Says:

    Enjoyed your childhood story Jane ~ Good thing to have your father on your side ~ Thanks for joining us ~


  18. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Grace, and yes it was. My father was a very special man.


  19. MarinaSofia Says:

    I love that drawing and the link to your story. I think our mothers are somewhat alike, but my father didn’t stand up for me much, so I envy you that. But that final haiku broke my heart (I will try not to do that to my kids).


  20. petrujviljoen Says:

    i both write and draw/paint. Writing came after. Simply loved your telling about the fat brat! It was self-defence! The painting is wonderful. I’ll explore your blog (as and when internet connection allows) to find more.


  21. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Marina Sofia….first thank you for reading and your comment. It is of the utmost sadness when daughters have such mothers. It haunts us throughout our lives. Mine, at 96 is still this way, but I had to learn (on my own…she was no example nor did she give advice) to not be like her in my behavior towards my own son. It was hard, because we do what we learn. My father died one year before our son was adopted….at three years. He would have loved this child and this child would have loved him. That is of the greatest sorrow that they never met. My mother was pointed not interested in him, but that was to her great loss. We just have to put ourselves on a path where we become different than what we know. My father and I had to go around my mother for a normal relationship: she was jealous of any other woman in the room! LOL! But he was wonderful when he was present…very quiet but had a wonderful sense of humor….dry, but loving. I was his first child, and his only daughter. That must have accounted for something with him. I miss him still, though he died in 1989.

    Thank you so much, for reading and your kind comment.


  22. ladynyo Says:

    ROTF!!!! Yes, a fat, spoiled brat. 40 years later she was no better, just thin. LOL!
    Yes! It was self-defense! Though I can really remember how fearful I was that she would tip us over this cliff to the road beneath. LOL!

    I don’t know why some think it is ‘unusual’ to paint/draw and write. Writing came after for me, too. There are no Chinese Walls between mediums…and one flows into the other. Or can. So glad to meet another artist/poet! I believe we are legion!~


    Liked by 1 person

  23. petrujviljoen Says:

    I remember reading the autobiography of (name right out of my head) the woman who did The Dinner Table? The book was called Through The Flower. She mentioned how pleased she was to find she could write too – Judy Chicago! There’s many,many!


  24. sarahsouthwest Says:

    I love your dad! This is really all about him, isn’t it? The very personal meaning of the picture, his defence of you, his humour, and then that sad haiku. Moving.


  25. whippetwisdom Says:

    A beautiful painting Jane and the tribute to the kindness of your father sparkles in the centre of your haibun xxx


  26. ladynyo Says:

    THank you, Xenia! Painting is easier now because I don’t do it for a living. LOL! I love wc, but worked exclusively in oils for too many years…then I changed over in 1995. I rarely go back to oils now. WC gives such freedom! My father: He was a very special, tormented man. Coming out of WWII, at 22 he was the oldest in his B24 squadron. he had ‘men’ 16 years old on that plane. I can’t imagine young men today doing what men of my father’s generation did. They defined ‘cannon fodder’. Jesus! My father didn’t get many changes to express his love, (Hungarians don’t say: “I love you”, much) but he showed in it many ways….I just was too young and stupid to understand. Thank you, Xenia. Kisses upon the noses of your darling dogs! xox

    Liked by 1 person

  27. ladynyo Says:

    Sarah! Thank you! I wish I could reach him and tell him how much I loved him. There were so many big and small kindnesses of this man towards his first child and only daughter. I will never forget those words of his: “Let’s not tell your mother about this.” LOL!
    I do have a cousin, a bit older than I, who has the same sense of humor as my dad. They worked together as sheet metal workers in Princeton, and when I get a phone call (frequently) from Donnie, it’s like my father all over again. He lives through Donnie to me….Donnie’s father was Uncle Zoltan, my father’s brother. Funny, neither my two brothers are anything like my father. That’s sad, but so is life at times.


  28. ladynyo Says:

    THANK YOU!~~~~ That comment (not many who write and paint) has disturbed me greatly. In part, I wonder….it that because I am a woman? Would a man say that if the object was a man who painted and wrote? I won’t take offense, obviously this dear has been living under a rock….but I forgive him. LOL! Yes, Judy Chicago and many, many others! Thank you for reinforcing this. I was feeling a bit low and defensive. I was plotting a blog piece with lots of poetry/ prose…and some damn paintings. LOL~

    Liked by 1 person

  29. whippetwisdom Says:

    Thank you Jane, kisses back for your lovely dogs too xxx


  30. Wolfsrosebud Says:

    What is it between fathers and daughters that are so special? I didn’t experience that until my dad was in his late 80s and I cared for him till he died.


  31. ladynyo Says:

    I don’t know! It’s a mystery to me, though I have studied the psychology of the issue for years. And have come up with no answers. One would expect mothers and daughters to have more of a bond. Perhaps for some, but not for me. My mother always felt compelled to compete with her only daughter….and this was so damn confusing for me as a teen. Who in Hell does that? I think it wonderful that you did experience this closeness with your father, even when he was in his late 80’s…and you got to be closer to him until he died. How I envy you! How I wish I had been able to do this. My mother stood in the way….all the time. I still don’t know what that bond is all about,…but it is special. Thank you for reading, leaving a comment, but mostly? for telling me about your special bond with your father.


  32. petrujviljoen Says:

    Please, please do it anyway! And your perception of it being a male thing may very well be correct.


  33. ladynyo Says:

    Yes, you might be right. It was so strange a comment. Perhaps this man doesn’t know any writer/painters???? Living under a rock thing. LOL! I don’t think he was trying to belittle me (he is rather taciturn)….but I’ve come across this issue of ‘what are you?’ my entire life. It’s like a woman has to choose between one artistic ability or the other. My mother is a prime example of this, and I will speak to that. It might be an age thing, too…though I don’t know many who don’t know about Judy Chicago, and for example….Hildegard of Bingen. It’s exhausting having to explain these things over and over. Thanks, for the encouragement. I’m going to do it today.



  34. petrujviljoen Says:

    I have here two volumes devoted to woman artists, whom all of them write as well! Poetry, memoir, academic essays.


  35. ladynyo Says:

    Yep….and in my case, I am a writer (published 6 books, with a 7th to come this summer) I was trained as a classical singer at Westminster Choir College many years ago, I was a belly dancer for 10, and taught this dance for 3, and painted with a small client base for 20 years at least. And at 69, I feel that I am just spreading my wings. The question begs ridicule.


  36. Bekkie Sanchez Says:

    Yep and mine was brutal. We had EVERYTHING but real love and guidance. Later they blamed us kids for the way we turned out. Hell, we raised ourselves and did the best we could, we did ok.


  37. ladynyo Says:

    Bekkie…you are certainly not alone. I have heard from so many people, men and women but mostly women who suffered the same childhood traumas. I, too, had everything but real love and guidance. My parents were fighting the battles of marriage and we three kids were bringing water to both sides. We were lost in the hell of it all, but we survived….but not without scars and trauma that followed us into adulthood. Parents who have more than a touch of narcissism will always blame their children but children are the innocent and are just trying to survive all this crap. I hope things have changed but I don’t know. It seems that with more wealth and comfort, the children are either overindulged or neglected…but with expensive phones. bless you, Bekkie.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Bekkie Sanchez Says:

    You too Ladynyo! I never had kids of my own because it really made me think about raising them and giving them what they needed. I don’t regret not having them and like kids so I’m good. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  39. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Bekkie. I couldn’t have kids, so we adopted our son. However, I remember my own mother around a Mother’s Day, when I said: “Happy Mother’s Day” on the phone…and she replied: Happy Mother’s Day to you, too…but you really aren’t a real mother.” I remember how hurt I was. But that is her, and she was only a negative example for me by then…and continues (at 96) to be the same. Some people should never have been mothers, but it is a question of inner character and compassion. Always. Thank you, Bekkie. We learn as we go.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Mish Says:

    First off, your watercolour is stunning. Wow.
    I enjoyed this vivid story of your childhood, the layers, different emotions and the bottom line expressed in your haiku…
    “Adults are the enemy.” I strongly believe that this can be true. They can also be the hero. So much depends on their own issues, attitudes, their nurturing or lack of it and their responses to our actions. Thanks for sharing!


  41. ladynyo Says:

    You are welcome, Mish. And you are right. It’s their own demons that command how they act towards others…especially defenseless children.


  42. M Says:

    one of those tales that lingers.

    I admire that you are so adept at both writing and painting (unlike, I suppose, that person who was befuddled…) ~

    Liked by 1 person

  43. ladynyo Says:

    ROTF! Yeah, M….he was befuddled. LOL! But he did read the article on my blog. No comment but then again….lol. Well, Painting and writing have such reason to co mingle. LOL! Illustrating my own poems give rise to paintings already done, and in a number of cases, like “Song of the Nightingale” that I published in 2015….I did a couple of water colors and calligraphy for. What ever works. Thank you, M.


  44. Bev Says:

    I was drawn into your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  45. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Thank you, Bev. That’s the best compliment a poet can get!


  46. Bekkie Sanchez Says:

    Some people should never be mothers indeed! My mom was so mean when she passed she had no friends even. Sad…


  47. ladynyo Says:

    Bekkie…this isn’t so uncommon. When a mother is so mean through out their lives, do they deserve mourners? I think, if we are honest, that most who are hanging around are hanging around for something from the will. And some of us, because their pure evil….know that. I never forgot that. How we are perceived at the point of death is a reflection of how we have lived our lives. Thanks, Bekkie for reading and your honest comment. Too many avoid this honesty and the mean ones? They think they have pulled the wool over the eyes of the living. Even to beyond the grave….

    Liked by 1 person

  48. micketalbot Says:

    How did you do that, you’ve been inside my head, oh yes you have. That was a day in my life. I didn’t bite I punched, Dad came to pick me up, bought me a gold fish on the way home, we walked. He also said, “We wont tell mum about this”, adding, “Tell her you won the goldfish”. Both my parents have long since passed away. Like you it was my Dad, my best friend, that I still dearly miss. Thanks for sharing you version of my, no, our story, No your special story, brought a lump to my throat.

    Take care – Mick


  49. ladynyo Says:

    AHhh… that is one of the nicest comments I have ever received on this blog! Isn’t funny how life, and especially our childhood work? Perhaps there are just so many combination of love and compassion to go around? I don’t know but I was as charmed by your own story as I was of mine. Thank you, Mick for sharing your own story that is really ‘our’ story.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. micketalbot Says:

    I suppose life is a bit like that, in as much, and especially on blog sites such as WP, where one can stumble on coincidences which relate directly to ones self. It can be, as in this case related to the past, or other events in the present, and even something one might have planed for the future. I find that when it happens, as with us, then it can only warrant a true and heart felt response, of which, I thank you for re your reply.
    best wishes and regards,



  51. ladynyo Says:

    I was charmed by your reply, Mick….and also my life teetered between the drunken kindness of my father and the sober malice of my mother. he died at 74, and she is still alive at 96. I have nothing to do with her, because the malice never abated. You can take just so much on this toxin in your life before you have to move away. It will mess up your life. But I am so glad when anything I write sparks a commonality in another. Thank you so much, and my best goes out to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. Bekkie Sanchez Says:

    You take care too! At least we know better. Hugs!


  53. ladynyo Says:

    we do now…but I found that I was resistant to any of this knowledge. Some people’s wiring is so damn twisted you can’t expect anything different except the same old abuse. Perhaps it takes something monstrous to open your eyes. it did mine. But the whole damn family on this side is corrupted by one person. There are lots of excuses, but it’s easier to follow something evil once you get used to it. it feels….rather familiar. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

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