The GYPSY…Now you see her…now you don’t (1959)
My first child was born on July 3rd, 1959, in New York City at the Lenox Hill Hospital. I tell you this because it was also the setting for one of the strangest scenarios that I’ve ever been part of.
I was having labor pains and the Dr. advised me to get to the hospital but it was no emergency. Therefore, when Dick and I got there we were told to wait in the Admissions office. We had just sat down when the doors opened and a group of at least a dozen people came in. The women and little girls were dressed in colorful long skirts and bright scarves. The men sported white shirts with ruffles, cowboy-style boots and hats with ribbons that circled the stiff brims and fell over their shoulders.
The central figure was a lovely young girl with pitch-black hair that cascaded over her ample bosom and extended belly. She was as pregnant as I, but I felt very dowdy compared to her and envied the amount of attention that was showered upon her.
It was becoming obvious that she was closer to giving birth than I was, so when the admissions gal came out of her office I told her to go ahead and admit her first. The group was effusive in their thanks and we chatted away like old friends until it was her time to go upstairs.
Now it was my turn to be admitted and I asked the clerk if she knew who they were? She gave me a condescending look and then explained that they were “gypsies”. She advised me to keep an eye on my belongings “if I insisted on communicating with them.” Her superior attitude and bias really annoyed me and made me all the more anxious to continue my friendship with them.
As luck would have it the gypsy girl was in the room next to mine and we both had uncomplicated and easy births. When her baby was less than 8 hours old she brought him to my bedside and we laughed as we patted his perfect little head covered with black hair. We were both breast feeding and the nurses would bring our babies to us about every 4 hours.
I guess it was about 8 pm when she brought the baby to my room and I fell asleep shortly after she left. When I woke I was surprised to see that all the lights were on in the hallway. There also seemed to be a buzz of activity going on and I realized that they hadn’t brought my baby to me yet. “What’s going on?” I called to one of the nurses and she stopped long enough to say, “Your “friend” and her baby are gone but don’t ask me how she managed it. They just disappeared.”
I learned later that this was par for the course with the gypsy community. I enjoyed being part of the intrigue, however, and never did tell anyone that my gold watch, which had been on my bed-side table, had mysteriously disappeared that night, too