Wednesday, December 06, 2006

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh well! Either she did take the watch, or someone else took it, finding it convenient that there had been a gypsy around to take the blame! Anyway, another good story!

10:06 AM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

I'll bet you're right, Claude! I never thought of that angle.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great story, Ginnie! Again.
I think I have to agree with sure gave a hospital worker carte blanche to blame it on "those gypsies" had you said anything.
I love your outlook on befriending the woman and she must have made an impact on you, because here you are....all these years later, sharing it with us.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

It makes for an interesting blog all these years later.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ginnie,
I have missed visiting you. I got caught in a work hole. This is such a great story! I got to know a lot of gypsies when I lived in France. I also got mugged pretty completely by a group of gypsies in Italy. Their notion of stealing is so different from ....what do they call us? There's a word for non-gypsies.

Anyway, you a just a master storyteller. Economy of word and image, then a great wry twist at the end. And by the way, 1959 was a very good year -- I was born in March.

Finally, what an excellent comment you left on my blog. Your notion of a power that is not really higher, but is more powerful is so apt. I'm excited to re-read your comment. Thank you so much.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Ginnie, what a lovely lady you are. I love the fact that you chose to befriend the gypsies, and hope to goodness that it was not she who stole your watch. A wonderful story, as always, I so enjoy them.

Thank You :)

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say that someone used the Gypsies as cover. You are a fine storyteller and this one was colorful and fun!

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great story. Gypsies are a fascinating sub-culture. Reminds me of the current "Travelers". They were in the news a few years ago. They truly don't believe stealing is wrong.

The word for non-gypsies is "gadje". :)



9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! Another wonderful story and a reminder that we must appreciate others for the best the have to offer while taking responsibility for our own business and not being a fool.

You're a gem in mind and spirit, dear Ginnie!

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't think you had gypsies ( now the pc term is Roma) in the USA

3:37 PM  
Blogger gawilli said...

Cool story! My only experience with gypsies was in the mid 70's when I worked in a fabric and craft store. They visited us several times before we realized what they were up to! They were nice enough people - who knew? They would draw your attention to one part of the store, while filling their bags on the other. When they realized we were on the them, we didn't see them anymore.

6:10 AM  
Blogger millie garfield said...

You tell a great story. It sort of reminded me of the O'Henry stories that I loved.

Remember the one where she cut off her hair in order to get him the watch he wanted and he sold "something" (I forget what it was) so he could buy her something for her hair.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story! I can visualize the whole scene and I figure they didn't like institutions...and probably had no money to pay for it either.

11:42 AM  

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