When I was a child I wore the same costume every Halloween. I’d get colorful scarves, skirt and shawl and layer on the gaudy jewelry, especially jangly earrings. Not only was it an easy outfit to assemble, but it spoke to the inner Gypsy I ave always wanted to be. Somehow I felt more comfortable in the scarves and swirly clothes than in the usual pleated skirts and cardigan sweaters which were the uniform of my youth.
Back in the early Sixties when I went to high school, times were more like the Fifties than what we now think of when we talk about the Sixties. We girls were forbidden from wearing any kind of pants to school, and our skirts had to come no higher than the knee. (I remember Ruthann Ringer getting sent home after the principal made her kneel on the floor to check the length and then decided her skirt was too short.) My daily outfit consisted in a kilt which covered my knees, a blouse with a round collar on which I wore a circle pin, and a shetland cardigan sweater. On my feet Knee socks which were forever slipping down my skinny legs and Bass Weejuns with the requisite pennies in place. Since then my fashion sense has drifted to the Gypsyside as I rock colorful, loose, comfortable, clown-like clothing.
I have always thought it would be great to be a Gypsy. For years I have had the fantasy of living in one of those Gypsy wagons with the bright paint and a horse with bells pulling it. I have read many books where some damsel falls for a swarthy lover and she moves from her stuffy home to a cozy caravan. Maybe not many, but the ones I read left a lasting impression. I can see myself cooking a stew over a campfire and eating with a hand-carved wooden spoon out of a chipped ceramic bowl. When my swarthy lover and I grew tired of the verdant glade we were camped in, we would hitch up the horse and find another beautiful place to live.
It seems so romantic. But the reality of life as a Gypsy is way too hard. They have a different set of rules than average Americans, and steal for a living. They don’t believe in private property and take what is available. In big cities, especially in Europe, tourists are warned to watch their valuables because Gypsies are adept at picking pockets and stealing casually dropped backpacks. Even in Charlotte we had a yard sale with our friends Jamie and Bryan and along came a group of cars loaded with people. They piled out all at once and took whatever they could grab and jumped back into the cars and took off. We were actually pretty relieved, though, because we were about to call it a day and didn’t want to deal with the stuff that was left.
My good friends, Richard and Janine, live outside Versailles in France and told us a story about real life Gypsies. Someone in the village owned a large field where planes could land and take off. A group of Gypsies moved onto the field and hooked their caravans up to the landowner’s electricity. They were asked to leave, but refused. They explained that they were just doing what they do. They were angry with the authorities and accused them of discrimination. “We should be allowed to live in our traditional way.”
There is something that appeals to me in living the way you want to live. I would love to be a complete free spirit, drifting like dandelion seeds. Rules are so inhibiting.
Trying to imagine a world with no rules, however, is scary. We would have no community if we all did just what we felt like doing. Driving a car would be deadly. I would be mightily annoyed if someone decided they had to have something of mine that I valued, even if I wanted to take something of theirs. Rules are just what keeps the wheels of civilization rolling. In my dreams, though, I will always be a Gypsy.