snowWe’ve been having the strangest weather. My kids have missed eight days for snow already, and we’re in the south. I’m told that’s not unheard of for this area, but come on. What’s the point of living in the south—far from family and good Italian food—if not avoiding snow?

But I digress…

Gramma never complains about crappy situations. She just digs in and deals with what life hands her. And life has handed her some tough situations.

Her family, looking to escape harsh realities in a weak and oppressive Italy, immigrated to Colorado in the early 1900s. She was a young girl running errands for her mother when she encountered one of those tough situations.

When the Going Gets Tough, Gramma Gets Going

She was walking to the general store by herself to obtain a few provisions for her family. It wasn’t far, but the road was deserted for a stretch. She heard a horse and buggy behind her. Horses were her favorite of all animals, so she turned around to admire the animal.

It wasn’t a local farmer, or even a neighbor child.

It was a “gypsy” family.

Her parents had warned her about such wanderers. They weren’t to be trusted.

She stopped staring at the horse and turned her focus back to the road, picking up her pace just a bit.

One of the men sitting in the cart called to her, “Hey, little girl!”

She ignored him. She could see the buildings on the main street of the town, but she wasn’t close enough to yell for help.

“Girly! Wait a minute!” She didn’t know if it was the same man or his partner, and she didn’t turn to find out. They were getting closer.

She broke into a run.

To her utter dismay, she heard the crack of a whip.

They were giving chase.

They were still pretty far behind her, but she knew she couldn’t outrun a horse. She’d never make it all the way to the general store.

Her only chance was to run to the first building she came to.

She ran for her life.

The first building in the street was the post office. She darted inside and, completely breathless, ran behind the counter, ducking down, out of sight.

“Hey! You can’t be back here!” the postmaster said.

She could only shake her head, completely unable to speak. She pointed at the door just as two men and a woman flung it open and dashed inside.

“Can I help you?” the postmaster asked them.

“We’re looking for… our niece,” one of the men said.

The woman spoke up. “She ran away from us.”

“I thought I saw her come in here,” a man said.

The postmaster was silent for a moment.

My grandmother didn’t breathe for a whole other reason. She was terrified he was going to give her up.

Instead, he said, “You’re mistaken. She must have run behind the building. Did you check out back?”

“Maybe if we could just check behind your counter?” one of the men said.

The postmaster held up his hand. “No, you may not. No one is allowed behind this counter unless he is authorized by the United States Government.”

Gramma released a soundless sigh.

“I suggest you be off,” the postmaster said. “You need to find your niece, and it gets dark early in these parts.”

The gypsies left without another word, and soon my grandmother heard the horse and buggy headed away from the post office.

“It’s safe now,” the postmaster said, and helped her out from behind his counter.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” my grandmother said. “How did you know I wasn’t with them?”

“You can always tell good from bad,” he said.

Certain Universal Truths

I always love it when my grandmother tells that story. You can tell good from bad, if you look hard enough. And you can do anything if you set your mind to it. Even get away from potential kidnappers. Or get out of a winter’s funk.

I’ve been feeling the winter’s blues. A lot of my writing friends have, too. But thinking about the hardships my grandmother has overcome is quite motivating to me. I’ve never had to escape anything so daunting as potential abductors. I don’t know if they were really “gypsies,” but I do know the threat was real. And I know she’s been through other tragedies in her life, too.

writer's blockI just had a minor bout of writer’s block. Not quite on the same scale, hardship-wise. Still, it’s nothing I want to keep banging my head against.

But overcoming any obstacle requires digging down deep to find that inner kernel of strength and determination that will see us through to the other side. I’d like to think I get that from my grandmother.

When you’re feeling a little out of sorts, who do you look to for inspiration? Why don’t you share that story here?

9 Responses

  1. First, it’s crazy that your kids have had 8 snow days. Second, what a lovely story from your grandmother and the lessons that it teaches. I remember something my grandmother told my mother when my older brother got himself into some pretty serious trouble. My mother was crying and fretting when my grandmother reached over and put her hand over my mother’s. “Gertrude, some folks just take a longer time to climb the mountain. That’s all that’s happening now. He’s just taking a detour.” I never forgot that and remember it often and pass it along where needed. I think the winter blahs have hit many of us, but this will soon be over.

  2. Staci – I enjoyed reading your story. When I was a little girl, this area was a farming community. In the summer droves of migrant workers came through to work the crops. Mom referred to them as “drifters.” Somehow, that always created an ominous feeling for me – I probably related them to gypsies – when in reality they were just poor working folks looking for a way to make a living.

    • Thanks for sharing, Joan.

      I think it’s probably all perspective. Many of us are afraid of the unknown. When my family immigrated here from Italy, many people weren’t happy to see them and they were met with prejudice, hatred, fear. I’m sure families told their children to stay away from the dangerous (insert derogotory name for Italians here). But they were just hard-working immigrants trying to eke out a living. Sure, there are always bad apples, like the “gypsies” my grandmother had to run from. But the optimist in me would like to think that people, in general, are mostly good.

  3. Bless your heart Staci, Arkansas is too far north for my blood. I truly enjoyed your telling of your grandmother’s story. My family is always a great source of inspiration for me during times of trouble and their experiences can always be counted on to break the writers block. It appears to be true for you as well. 😉

    • If you think Arkansas is too far north, try Pennsylvania, where I’m originally from!

      I look to my family in good times and bad. I know you look to your family for inspiration for your comedy… the conversations you post are hilarious. But it’s good to know you can turn to them in times of trouble as well. We’re both very lucky, I’d say.

  4. Enjoyed your story of the gypsies. I well remember when they used to camp on the road below our house out at Lake Shepherd Springs when I was little, and hearing the adults talk about how careful we had to be or they would rob us blind. It never happened, though. I guess my mind remembers so many things that most of my inspiration comes from there, but that would include family stories from my Dad who was a great storyteller and my mother’s mother who had some whoppers. I’ve been told she was a wild child in her youth and have written several short stories based on their early life in Arkansas. Thanks for reminding me.

    • I always thought gypsies sounded like exotic and wonderful nomads until I heard my grandmother’s story. I’m sure there’s truth to both sides of that coin. I wish you could meet my gramma. You and she would have a blast trading stories.

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