Friday, June 7, 2013

A Very Short Story

A Baby Meets Mondrian

When I was a newborn baby my mother, Mary, did an extraordinary thing. She invited Piet Mondrian to our house for lunch and "introduced us," so to speak. The year was 1944; the month was January.
Mary Markel in training to become
a Registered Nurse at Children's Hospital,
Buffalo, New York - 1940.

My mother had a dream. She dreamed that she saw me as an adult, standing in an enormous white room, bathed in sunlight streaming from four tall windows and looking at a flat object which was covered with multicolored lines. This dream perplexed her. She was a deeply sensitive person, a nurse and a concerned parent. She wondered what the dream meant. She told my father, and he wondered too. But they both had a sense that it was something good.
Our studio at 723 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

Then one day while looking through The New York Times, she came upon the art pages. There she saw an article about an exhibition of paintings by Piet Mondrian at the Valentine Dudensing Gallery. And there was a reproduction of one of his paintings.

Broadway Boogie-Woogie by Piet Mondrian.
1942-1943, Collection Museum of Modern Art, New York

My mother was startled. The Mondrian painting was the object she had seen in her dream. She wrote a letter to Mondrian, in care of the gallery, explaining about the dream. A week later, a note arrived from Mondrian himself. He said it was indeed a strange and wonderful event. He said that he would like to meet this baby, me!
Baby Carol.
My mother invited Mondrian to come to lunch at our apartment. We lived in Bayside, Queens, and Mondrian took the Long Island Railroad from New York City, where he lived. It was a cold January day. My mother did not really know his aesthetic attitude but somehow, she knew instinctively what to do. She wore a yellow sweater, a blue skirt and string of red beads. She wrapped me in a white blanket with a black and gray linear design. She put red carnations on the table. She served food which she made in a Dutch oven.

Mondrian did not stay long on that afternoon in 1944. My mother told me of the meeting. She held me up to him, and he touched my chubby face. He even held me for a moment in his stringent, yet gentle, arms. He said that he was sure I would grow up to be an artist, be able to live in a disciplined environment, dedicate my life to art, and also, that I would marry an artist.
Me in my studio at 723 Chestnut.
All these predictions came true. I was lucky to have met him when I did, because he died a month later. I will be eternally grateful to my mother.
Richard Cramer, the artist who I married.
The painting is a celebration of our love and
is called Spring Wall.

Dedicated to Mary Markel, 1919-2008

Thank you for giving me red carnations
 each year on my birthday.

À Bientôt!


  1. A magical story, Carol. Beautiful photos including you in a hat at a young age. I loved reading about your history .

  2. Wonderful story! A very special occurence.

  3. What a lovely story and a happy memory!

  4. Like a dream. Very beautiful.