When I was two, possibly three-years-old, my mother and her friend visited an old gypsy woman. That, in itself, is remarkable, for I grew up in Antioch, IL and, as far as I know, there has never been a gypsy caravan in my hometown.
My mother did not believe in fortunes. At least, not the type told by gypsies. But because they had found an old gypsy woman, which, as I mentioned was remarkable, and because gypsy women are famous for telling fortunes, my mother decided to ask about her fortune. This is what the gypsy woman said:
“Barbarrrrrrra . . . ”
And yes, the old gypsy woman spoke exactly like that. Besides being famous for telling fortunes, gypsy women are also famous for twirling their Rs.
“Barbarrrrrra, I’m-a not going to tell you your fortune.”
And my mother, who didn’t believe in fortunes, was suddenly very disappointed. After all, if you went to a Chinese restaurant and at the end of the meal the waiter told you they’d run out of fortune cookies, you’d be disappointed. Why? Because even if you don’t believe in fortunes, the truth is, at the end of a Chinese meal you’re not looking forward to the dried-out, tasteless cookie–no, you’re looking forward to reading your fortune. Which, is to say. . . my mother was very disappointed.
“Why?” she asked.
“Barbarrrrrra, I’m-a not going to tell you your fortune because you are a mother and mothers are never interested in their own fortunes. No, mothers are only interested in the fortunes of their children.”
“Oh…” said my mother, whose heart had suddenly begun to beat faster. Clearly, she’d stumbled upon a very, very wise old gypsy woman. Of course, she didn’t care about her own fortune; like all mothers, my mother only wanted to know about the fortunes of her children.
“Barbarrrrrra,” continued the old gypsy woman. “ Your-a first child, a boy (which was correct), he’s-a born under a lucky star. He could be verrry lucky, he could be verrry rrrich.
Which, of course, made my mother verrrrry happy.
“But beware!” added the old gypsy woman, “He will lose all his luck–or worse–should he spread lies about his family or abandon his mother and father in their greatest time of need.
“Oh dear,” said my mother, nodding her head.
“Barbarrrrrra, your-a second child, also a boy (and also correct), he’s-a not born under so lucky a star. He may not be so rrrich, but he’s a going to be verrry talented. He’s a going to be a drrrummer!
This, too, made my mother happy because her husband (my father) was a musician. It was good to know that one of her children would follow in his footsteps.
“But beware . . .” added the old gypsy woman.
“Oh, don’t worry,” said my mother, interrupting her. “That he’s going to be a musician is warning enough!”
The old gypsy woman laughed, nodding her head and continued, “Barbarrrrrra, your-a third child, a girl. Ohhhhh, she’s-a so pretty. She’s-a the most beautiful child the world has ever—
Okay, she didn’t say that, but she did say:
“Barbarrrrrra, your-a third child. A girl. Her star may not be so lucky, she may not be so talented, but–she’s-a going to be a wrrrriter!
“A writer!” exclaimed my mother, overjoyed. “And what should she beware of?”
“Ahhhh” said the gypsy woman smiling, “Why. . . of being too lucky, too talented and too rich!”
And from that day forward, my mother, who didn’t believe in fortunes, began introducing me as her daughter, the wrrrriter!