Gypsy, Hippie, Fairy - Who will write this page?
And the winner is . . . Fairy!


May you touch dragonflies and
                                  stars, dance with fairies, and talk to
                                  the moon.



I finally threw all caution to the wind in the early 1970s and allowed my hidden hippie heart to surface. I didn't realize that Middle Class Fifties-Wife-and-Mother was morphing into the protagonist of Patti Wilson's Earth Journey: Book Two.  My first clue was the joy I experienced when I bought my first bell bottom pants, followed by a pair of those white boots that were made for walking that looked so great with my first-ever mini-dress.  Lots of firsts were showing up in my life.

The next harbinger of
change was that 1969 poster that I hung on our walnut-paneled dining room wall in Gainesville, Florida.  It had the same words an instructor mentioned in a psychology class at Santa Fe Junior College. The poster had a slightly different ending to what became known as the "Gestalt prayer" penned by Dr. Fritz Perls. Do you remember that 56-word statement that was a classic expression of Gestalt therapy? It opens with, "You do your thing, I do my thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine." Uh-oh! The winds of change were blowing.

 

The impetuous inner gypsy in my soul is impatient to write about the years that followed, and there will be a time for that, but today is not that time.

Today demands a flashback to my innocent beginnings which I like to liken to a little fairy's lovely spirit.  (Can you tell I also like alliteration?) Fairies were not included among the characters in my Catholic Catechism, so they did not enter my field of awareness as a child, not by name at least.  Like a fairy, my love of nature was inborn and unusual for a child born and bred in the concrete jungle of Williamsburg, on the north side of Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA.

We honestly did have only one tree growing bravely at my end of Conselyea Street, close to the corner of Lorimer Street where the Meat Store was back then. It was pretty close to the fire hydrant city kids called a Johnny Pump. On a scorching summer afternoon, one of the big boys would get a wrench and open up the hydrant sending a cooling cascade of water into the air for us to run through until the cops came to turn it off. It wasn't quite Coney Island, and seemed a little dangerous, because we knew the cops would show up soon and give us a warning and a threat that they'd tell our parents and then we'd have hell to pay for it!

My playmates and I insisted our tree was the very same Ailanthus
tree, commonly known as Tree of Heaven, made famous in  the 1943 book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith's first novel which sold three hundred thousand copies in the first six weeks. It went on to sell three million. Francie Nolan was the central character in that famous book about the American Dream. She was the adolescent daughter of turn of the century Irish-American immigrants. My friends and I were second-generation Italian-Americans, so Francie's life was easy to relate to. Each one of us budding drama queens liked to fancy herself the poor heroine with high aspirations who would achieve success through education.

But it was our back yard that was my secret garden with its morning glories clinging to the wooden fence that separated our narrow lot from the Spinelli family's house. Mr. Spinelli was one of 25 children and an excellent gardener. He built an overhead grape arbor that filled his entire back yard, the precursor of countless bottles of homemade wine. Clusters of purple grapes, hot from the sun, spilled over our fence to greet the eager hands of neighborhood children who spit the seeds out into the bed of yellow and orange marigolds when Grandma Normandia was not keeping a watchful eye on us from an upstairs window.

The crowning glory of my secret garden was the two-story high magnolia tree that perfumed the summer breezes with its large white lemon-scented flowers. I watched it grow taller as I grew taller during my childhood years from four to fifteen. It was planted in front of the modest rear house with the coal cellar in its basement that was only approachable from outside, even on freezing winter mornings when the cellar doors refused to open in a timely fashion.



In the late 1800s, Italian-Americans brought their love of gardening with them on the steamships to America. The men would be called Master Gardeners now. During World War II, the BIG one, as Archie Bunker liked to say, most houses in our neighborhood had a Victory Garden, a small kitchen garden to relieve food shortages. In the middle of Grandma's Victory Garden stood one single fig tree. She was a very intuitive and mystical healer and midwife, and somehow she knew if I took more than my allotted one ripe fig at a time from her beloved tree. She was the four-foot, nine inch ruling matriarch of the Normandia family and no one dared disobey her, not even her married 40-something sons, or even Grandpa. However, I was her darling granddaughter who lived in the downstairs apartment of her converted one-family house and, with her permission, one-at-a-time often showed up more than once on any given day.

Grandpa Normandia built an overhead trellis for Grandma so her zucchini and yellow squash plants could go forth and multiply. In the humid summers, they created a living ceiling for our Girls' Club. The shaded area below became a stage. Often the setting turned into the perfect place for elaborate tea parties, with our dolls pretend-drinking out of tiny China cups with pink roses on the sides. Mom would bake little cookies for the occasion and fill our teacups with sweet lemonade. My mom was a little girl at heart and always had a box of fancy clothes ready for our spontaneous "dress up" times. When we pretended to have a wedding   that shady nook became our church. We would take turns for the enviable position of the bride of the day. Mom dressed us in Salvation Army clothes she altered to fit us. It was mostly about wearing a crown and veil and gathering wild flowers for our bouquets. I never especially wanted to play the bride though I took my turn to be polite. I preferred when we played school under the zucchini canopy, and willingly traded my bride turn if the girls would let me be the teacher.

Life was simple and safe and childhood's end was nowhere in sight yet.  Later, I wrote a poem about the yellow squash flowers that Grandma dipped in an egg batter and fried on her cast iron stove. I plan to collect all my poetry and give it a chapter of its own in this book of memories. That is, if I can find it all. It's part of my process of getting all my writings into one place for once in my life. Can you tell I'm having fun yet? This is what bliss feels like for me. Writing and genealogy research float my boat and my muse loves to show up to inspire me in the dark, quiet hours after midnight.

Fast forward for a minute to 1972.The winds of change turned the page and blew me into the next chapter of my life as a single woman after a sixteen-year marriage. I lived in many different apartments and houses in Gainesville, usually with roommates. Some worked out better than others for me. One day while sitting out on the balcony, I tried to figure out what made the difference and had an aha moment. The places I was happiest in had only one thing in common - a fruit-bearing fig tree on the property. It fostered my illogical belief that when deciding between places to live, I *should* see if a fig tree was growing there! (The asterisks around *should* remind me not to use that word because I don't appreciate it when people *should* on me.) Fig trees became my touchstone, filed next to the necessity of having a library within walking distance.

I spent my childhood in the Leonard Library, one of Brooklyn Public Library's original Carnegie branches that opened in 1908 when my mother was six years old. It's still located at 81 Devoe Street at Leonard Street. I stopped there every day on the walk home from Jr. High School 196 and lost myself in a book, carefully watching the clock so Mom wouldn't say she almost called in a missing person report for me. I met my first boyfriend, Johnny Martin, at that library. He lived a couple of houses away from it and I thought he must be the luckiest kid in the world to live that close to a library. At fourteen, I loudly declared that when I grew up, I would never live far from a library. I still feel that attachment to libraries, and although I now have an Amazon Fire tablet to house new books, it's just  not the same feeling as holding a book in my two hands. I finally bought a purple cover for my tablet that opens like a book and that seems to be a good compromise. It has one big plus. It can read books out loud to me with or without headphones.


In 1993, Gordon found us a house that was a manifestation of all my little girl dreams, including a creek we share with the Milhopper Branch of the Alachua County Library District - but in 1993, there was no fig tree in sight! Oh, no, what to do? We immediately had three Brown Turkey fig trees planted over twenty years ago because the property had everything else that made its home on my treasure map - a house with a huge screened-in porch looking out over virgin woods that led to a creek, and is close to a library. Oddly, the inside of the house was never part of  my fantasy, though I do love ours.

When my daughter, Kimberli, was moving to Minnesota with her husband, Greg, and sons Richard and Sabbastian, they transplanted their fig tree in a corner of our fenced garden area, and then there were four. I was babysitting it in case they ever moved back, but so far they haven't.  Last year I had a conversation with their now huge tree.  I informed it that it was too tall and healthy to ever be transplanted again even if my family moved back and therefore I was adopting it. I told it, "I am happy to say you are mine and I am yours now. No one will ever dig you up again!" The biggest fig trees are taller than our forty-three year old house now and, in good seasons, they bear more fruit than we could ever eat. We finally stopped picking figs from the tree outside my office window. We gave up years ago and gave it back to the birds and squirrels who think it's theirs anyway and named it "Squirrels' Delight."

However, I'm not Pollyanna anymore. I must admit the most important part of my happy life is missing from the beautiful life we created together, since my dear Gordon left his body in 2013. I couldn't believe the jagged edges of my grief could ever smooth out, but the very fact that I am able to sit at this computer and write again tells me healing is possible and a very individual experience. It takes as long as it takes. It helps me to remember that we both believed this life was really an illusion and just one focus of our eternal life in All-That-Is.

Back to fairies: When I was an adult, a psychic told me that fairies were incarnated elementals, the angels of Nature with magical powers. She added that when I was not confined in a physical body, I lived in the Devic Kingdom as a fairy. I have no way of knowing if this is true or any empirical proof that fairies are real, but this I do know - I am definitely drawn to paintings and posters and statues of fairies, especially the Gothic ones. I finally redecorated our bedroom and have christened it my Fairy Room.

This week, my daughter, Kimberli, sent me one of those free tests making the rounds of the internet. You answer questions and it tells you things about yourself. This one promised to determine which fairy spirit I was. Kimberli (Kiki) turned out to be a Fairy Enchantress. I thought, what the heck, I'll do it for fun. If it's on the Internet, it has to be true, right? Right! I turned out to be a Fairy Queen. I was not impressed. I'm pretty sure being an Enchantress would be way more fun than being a Queen who has so many responsibilities! C'est la vie.



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Permanent Change

I've been sitting here for days
Thinking of different ways
To change my life so I can start anew
And one thing is not clear
What is this sound I hear?
Is it me or maybe it is you?
 
I see colors everywhere
People who just don't care
Those who think that they can change the world
Looking back on all the years
Of happiness and tears
I've found there's only thing that's for sure

You only get what you give
The way you die is the way you live
And what you want is not always what you need
‘cause you might want it today
but tomorrow you'll throw it away
and the only thing that's permanent is change