Haibun: The Mermaid


The ‘50’s was a time of Mickie Mantle vs. Marilyn Monroe, Better Red than Dead, or Dead than Red, confusing for children as we didn’t understand ‘why’ we were to change color. The ‘50’s was surviving the drunken kindness of a father and the sober malice of a mother, with all  siblings carrying water to both.

Second grade and I remember tall windows that cranked out at chest height but only the teacher was allowed to touch the crank and the smell of ages: mold, asbestos and lead paint was a constant in our tender lives.

I remember being given a small lump of grey/green clay for ‘arts and crafts’. I remember the mermaid I molded: rolled clay for hair and arms, perky breasts, a split tail. I used my fingernail to make scales. I remember old Mrs. Hoephner coming down the aisle, her knarled hands balled into fists, her grimace, her white hair floating like a wrath around her head and she saw my mermaid and with her fist, stomped it flat.

Five decades later, I made that same mermaid, (I hadn’t progressed far with clay,) but this time, I glazed her shiny, she visited the fire and I gave her a crown of thorns. Again, I saw old Mrs. Hoephner, crabby old woman long dead, coming to my desk and Thump This, you old Bat, you destroyer of a child’s imagination and you will be wearing that crown of thorns.

Such a fragile thing.
Child’s salvation

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2018

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20 Responses to “Haibun: The Mermaid”

  1. petrujviljoen Says:

    Not sure whether I should laugh or cry. You must’ve been devastated at the time. Where’s the pic of the one you made?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Petru….I should first find the ‘new’ sculpture and then photo. it. My husband has it somewhere on a shelf in his shop. LOL. Yes, I also don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I suppressed a reaction to this event because children in the 50’s had little recourse. “Quiet until spoken to” was the general rule of thumb. I have carried this childhood experience my whole life and it doesn’t disappear. So…I guess I was devastated then but too scared to speak up. That was the way of things back then. Thanks so much for reading but especially your insightful comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. petrujviljoen Says:

    I was also stomped on regarding creativity as a child. Drew a picture with both the sun and moon in one drawing and was told it’s impossible! – and it isn’t! A blue fish got a ‘fail’! … one doesn’t forget!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. ladynyo Says:

    It IS possible for the sun and moon to hang in the sky at dusk. Stupid teachers, stupid adults. And…it is based in jealousy I believe when this happens. No imagination, either on the part of the adults. And one doesn’t forget the meanness of adults and other children. But especially the adults.


  5. petrujviljoen Says:

    I do believe the teacher was just plain mean! I’m big now, they can’t do that to me anymore – can they?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ladynyo Says:

    They still might try. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  7. petrujviljoen Says:


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Frank Hubeny Says:

    I had a third grade teacher who did something similar with the way she looked and the tone of her voice. Thinking back she probably was about 30 or 40, but not very happy for some reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ladynyo Says:

    I can’t think of why a teacher would be happy. It takes a very special human to become one. riding herd on a bunch of baby cows. LOL. Teachers today give the ultimate sacrifice to us: they face some pretty bad conditions: students….some are respectful but so many aren’t. Funny how we remember these people from our childhood. Thanks, Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mother wintermoon Says:

    I’ve had far too many similar experiences with the teachers that had an immense impact on my childhood sense of self and self-worth. This really struck a chord. I have missed you. Happy to read your words again and reconnect.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Mother Wintermoon!~ Glad to reconnect with you, too…have missed you, also. A huge limb came crashing down over a week ago and took out our phone line. I just got it restored this morning. 9 days without a phone or internet. Hay!!!!! LOL. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I think many of us women have been scored with this over the course of our lives.And it goes on and on. The only good thing is most of thse abusers are DEAD. And that is good. But we have to reconstruct our lives. My mother is one of these…and at 98 thousand years, she is still like the old bitch of a teacher…who is longgggg dead. Another good thing. Keep in touch, please! xox

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mother wintermoon Says:

    Glad you are safe (after the tree limb incident)! I appreciate the way you share your stories and don’t mince a word when it comes to trauma, abuse, bullies and truth. XOXO

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you! my neighbors do, but what the hell. Some of them are animal abusers and get all sorts of insults and sometimes violence thrown my way. Living in an urban area (Atlanta) there are many un-evolved men (and women) who think they don’t have to follow the rules of decency and especially compassion towards animals. I’ve seen this for 50 years in the South and it never stops to shock me. We have 4 dogs, 10 cats, 12 chickens, goldfish in pond we dug for them, and we feed 9 other stray cats three times a week that I travel a few blocks to do so…and have for 10 years. Many of my cats come from this pod of cats. I prefer the company of animals to the people around here. Ignorance and hatred abound. But the neighborhood is changing so perhaps more ‘evolved’ people will move in. I think the older we get the more honest (or don’t give a damn) we become. Our time on Earth is it, and it means what we do here is important. No second chances, Thanks, Mother Wintermoon! Hugs! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  14. mother wintermoon Says:

    Animals are our teachers and healers. I’m so thankful to know of your kindness and connection to them. Scarily, the unevolved seem to be a dominant force taking over our world. We must not give in, succumb or give up. {{{Hugs}}} 💞

    Liked by 1 person

  15. ladynyo Says:

    I’ll take that hug and multiply it back to you! And yes, animals are our teachers and healers in so many ways. I could do without people but not animals. Found a mother with 5 tiny kittens today, on a street near me. A young man

    Liked by 1 person

  16. ladynyo Says:

    lost my comment, but thank you!


  17. Princess Crowned Says:

    Adults often forget how tender and trusting children are, esp when they are creating and crafting. A good teacher warms our heart for eternity, a careless or mean one plants seeds of doubt that take a while to dig out.

    I’m sure not everything I concocted was a masterpiece but my parents displayed my stuff like it was National Gallery worthy.

    I say make a few more mermaids! Put them in your garden! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Princess. I wish I could but I don’t work in clay anymore or have a kiln. But I agree with you wholeheartedly about encouraging and mean teachers. I can remember a few…of the good ones, and many of the bad ones. May they rot in Hell. LOL>


  19. Princess Crowned Says:

    I have very fond memories of all my encouraging teachers!!

    If you feel like it one day, you could see about a community kiln or go take a mini class, to get to one!! Mermaids abound! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. ladynyo Says:

    Love mermaids!


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