' Book 2 - Our Lucky Mascot '
(This is the SECOND book of my famous sequel 'I am a Gypsy Prince')
14. My difficult decision about joining my friends to a gadjo town.
Too soon, fall set in again, the days shortened, and the sun showed up much lower in the sky.
The number of caught animals started to diminish, just like it had done in the past year.
The first marmots already disappeared into early hibernation, and many other critters were already retreating towards the mountains.
Time after time, many snares turned out to be empty...
At last, the older kids told us to pair up again, to sneak towards our far-away places in absolute silence.
Of course, Misha and I went together again, immediately returning to our own steep ravine!
Unfortunately, even there, most animals were already asleep, hiding in unreachable caves.
Only now and then, we caught a dozy marmot or a stray hare.
After returning to our camp, we put our few caught animals together, and roasted them.
We had also looked for leftover fruits, carrots, or nuts, but couldn't find any.
Now, we divided our scant food, so that everybody would have the same share of meat.
Next, we went to our parents, still feeling hungry...
However, even our grown-ups didn't have enough food to feed us properly.
They had to do with the small amount of food Michail provided them with, from our spare stock...
Many times, they hung around our campfire, showing dejected faces and rubbing their empty stomachs.
Day after day, they had been chased away from every possible gadjo town they tried to visit.
Every gadjo seemed to hate Gypsies, and our people were always forced to leave their towns immediately...
Finally, Michail told us, with a sad face, that he had opened our very last box of spare food.
Within two days from now, we would be out of food and starving!
We were also nearly out of fuel, and had no money left to refill our tanks.
To stay alive and feed our kids, we HAD to do something about our precarious situation, and fast!
Our grown-ups put their heads together, and decided to do the same things they had done last year.
Again, they would visit a far away gadjo town, to lay their hands on anything of value they could gather.
They only had to follow our strict code of honor, meaning they would only take things from rich people who wouldn't miss them anyway.
In our Gypsy community, we always shared everything; so, why wouldn't our gadjo fellow-creatures share some of their wealth with us?
And, of course, to us, surviving was now a matter of life and death...
Next, my Dad called our waiting group of older kids together.
Immediately, we surrounded him, already knowing what he wanted to ask...
First, he stared at us for a long time, slowly getting tears in his eyes.
Then, he wiped his tears away, and told us with a sad voice:
"My precious friends, I love you very much; and I don't want to bring you into such a difficult or maybe even hazardous situation.
"However, again, I ask you to visit a nearby gadjo town and beg for food and money, to help us survive the upcoming winter.
"Never before has our situation been this precarious; and never before have any gadjo people been this hostile and mistrustful against Gypsies.
"Therefore, tomorrow morning, I don't want to tell you what you have to do. This time, the decision is entirely up to you...
"I only want to ask you for a favor; and nobody will be angry at you for being too scared and wanting to stay in our camp!
"All our kids who really want to visit a gadjo town; please, tomorrow morning, comb your hair and dress into your neatest clothes.
"Then, Michail will drive you to a nearby town; where you will beg for mercy, to get some food and hopefully a little bit of money..."
My Dad nearly started to choke up, again getting tears in his eyes.
He shook his head, left our group of kids, and slowly sauntered to our own black-and-golden caravan.
Of course, my Mom followed him immediately, to comfort him and be there for him if he needed her.
I followed my parents at a bit slower pace, on my way thinking of our group of older kids who would go begging tomorrow.
Again, I thought about all the fascinating stories I had heard, and about the strange gadjo towns I so eagerly wanted to see...
All the gadjo people seemed to live in huge two-story or even three-story caravans, without any wheels to move them if necessary....
Even the smallest gadjo children had to be dressed during the whole day, both in summer and in winter, according to their strange nudity laws....
Silently, I crossed my fingers, and hoped.
Would my Dad this time allow me to join Misha, and help him with the begging in that gadjo town, because I now was a Real Trapper?
I was sure that, this year, my Dad hadn't mentioned any age limit, which wasn't his usual behavior...
Ultimately, I was already nearly SIX years old, had absolutely proven to be able to fend for myself, and I was blessed with a VERY bright mind!
Well, actually, I was only five-and-a-half and a bit too small for my age... but I was very independent, and my intelligent brain was surely mature enough.
I waited until my parents had disappeared into our caravan, before I followed them inside.
My Mom was busy in our kitchen, brewing two cups of coffee; and she asked me if I wanted a glass of orange juice.
Of course, I told her: "Yes please!"; while I offered her a big hug.
Next, I went to our living room, where my Dad sat on our couch, staring into empty space with teary eyes...
I crawled onto his lap, put my arms around his neck, and told him:
"Dad, I understand this is difficult for you, and that you feel responsible for our own people. Only, you don't have any other choice but to let them beg!
"I am also sure that, again, everything will work out for the best; just like it had all those years before, without causing any trouble whatsoever.
"Again, we will gather enough money and goods to survive this winter; because our Ancestors are with us and protect us whenever they can.
"Now, I want to ask you a question. You know that I am our youngest Real Trapper, very bright, and more than able to fend for myself, even in an unknown town.
"Tomorrow, I want to help my people, by joining my friends to that gadjo town and help them beg. I am sure that my 'brainiac mode' will be very helpful.
"And, of course, I will be with Misha; and Misha will protect me and look after me, as he always does. Please, Dad, I want to help my friends tomorrow..."
Again, I crossed my fingers, while I showed my best puppy dog eyes to my still hesitating Dad...
In the meantime, my Mom showed up in our living room, silently putting our drinks onto the table.
She had overheard our conversation, and I thought I sensed some doubt in her mind...
Well, this certainly felt a lot better than the initial 'no' I had expected from her!
After a moment, my Dad looked at my Mom and asked her hesitantly:
"What do YOU think, Maria? I think that our son has a few valid points; and Misha is absolutely mature enough to look after him in that town..."
"Well, Janov, I am not so sure... He is still such a small boy, and what if he gets into trouble? He has never been in such a hostile environment before."
"Yes, but... This 'small boy' HAS caught a dangerous badger, survived a night outside in the freezing cold, and even forced a police officer to leave our camp...
"I think that Harry only looks like a 'small boy'; but he IS a very old soul with a lot of Inner Power, and he will absolutely be able to fend for himself if necessary.
"And, you know that our Ancestors are with him. He has a task to fulfill on earth, and our Ancestors will protect him and help him whenever they can!
"Besides, just have a look at his innocent face... I am sure that, with those bright blue eyes, he has a good chance to gather the most money and food."
"Yet, I think we should ask his Grandmother for her advice first, before we make such an important decision. After all, he is her grandson as well..."
My Dad nodded his consent, and he and my Mom both left our caravan and went to my Grandma.
During their absence, I almost couldn't sit still from nervousness!
Trembling with anticipation, I crossed my fingers, strolled around in our living room, and hoped...
Would my parents really allow me to join my friends to that gadjo town, although I was still very young?
Silently, I prayed to our Supreme Being, to make them trust me...
After a couple of very long minutes, my parents finally returned.
Immediately, I tried to read their minds; but, I didn't succeed.
This time, I was way too agitated to pick up any thoughts at all!
What had my parents decided, after talking to my Grandma?
My Dad lifted me off the floor and took me to our couch, while he told me:
"Look at me, Harry, and listen carefully to what I ask you to do..."
Now, my heart jumped up in my chest with enthusiasm!
My Dad called me 'Harry'; and, when he did it like this, I always knew he felt very proud of his big little son.
I was now sure that my parents allowed me to go, and I only had to do what my Dad asked...
My Dad sat me on his knee and put his safe arms around my small frame, while he told me:
"My dear son... We know that you are a very independent and extremely bright kid. That is why your Grandmother and we want you to decide for yourself...
"However, you have to realize that gadjo people are very different from us. Many times, they will do unexpected things that we Gypsies wouldn't even think of.
"For example, they may spit at you, throw things at you, curse at you, or try to chase you out of their town without any apparent reason.
"They may call you very bad names, like 'bastard' or 'crossbreed'; because of your notable appearance, having blond hair and blue eyes, unlike all the others.
"On the other hand, being a little blond boy with blue eyes certainly has some advantage! Because of this, every gadjo will have a look at YOU first.
"If you meet any good-hearted people, they may offer you more food or money; because you can show them your captivating smile and innocent puppy dog eyes...
"Now, you have to decide about what you will do tomorrow. Do you REALLY want to join Misha and the other kids to that uninviting gadjo town?"
At first, I wanted to shout 'yes' immediately, without any thinking!
Of course, I wanted to join my friends to that strange gadjo world; probably more than anything else!
However, I knew that I had to carefully think my decision over, before answering my parents.
All our grown-ups always taught their children to never decide anything important without carefully thinking and rethinking first.
You always have to look at every possible side, until the picture is clear in your mind and you are exactly aware of what you want...
In case you cannot succeed, you may ask somebody else to help you, but only after you really thought it over yourself first.
I hugged my still sad looking Dad and my still a bit wary looking Mom, before I went outside.
First, I told my waiting friends to look after their traps without me, because I wanted to think about something important.
Then, I disappeared into our surrounding bushes, and slowly sauntered towards our waterfall.
I wanted to be alone for a while, to ponder about what I really wanted to do...
Soon, I reached the edge of our so well-known ravine, and sat down on a mossy boulder.
For quite some time, I stared at the sparkling water drops of our waterfall, showing their beautiful colors in the lowering sunlight.
In the meantime, I started to think about my important decision...
Why was I so eager to accompany my friends to such a hostile environment?
Was I only curious about such a strange gadjo town that I had never been to before?
I knew the well-known saying we always used: 'curiosity killed the cat'...
Would any nasty gadjo really want to kill me?
I wasn't a cat with nine lives, but only a vulnerable 'little badger' with a way too big mouth...
However, so far, I had never heard of any Gypsy kid being killed for begging...
Was I really sure I would be able to withstand any malicious behavior my Dad told me about?
What if some gadjo spit at me, kicked me out of town, humiliated me, or called me nasty names?
Would I really be able to fend for myself, if any gadjo would be in a bad mood and wanted to harm me?
Now, I clearly felt that I was NOT so sure; but only hoped the gadjo's wouldn't be that mean...
Would switching into my 'brainiac mode' really help me with begging, as I had told my Dad?
Or, had I been bragging, hoping my parents would see me as a 'big boy' and allow me to join my friends...
The truth was that I didn't know how to beg, and only hoped I would do it right...
Of course, I reckoned on Misha, but he would have to teach me first how to do it!
Suppose, I really decided to join my friends to that gadjo town, tomorrow morning...
Then, I would be the smallest kid in our group, and the older kids would have to protect me all the time!
But, did my friends really want to protect me, because I was still such a little kid?
Maybe, they only saw me as a nuisance, hindering them in their efforts to gather enough food and money...
What if my friends thought I would be too small; and they didn't want to baby-sit me...
Finally, after some more thinking and rethinking, I knew exactly what I had to do!
I would ask my friends for their advice, about joining them tomorrow to that gadjo town and help them beg.
If they hesitated, or told me they didn't want to have me in their midst, I would stay home.
I didn't want to be a nuisance, or in their way, just because I was a Prince, or a brainiac with a too big mouth.
I rose from my boulder, and slowly sauntered back to our campfire...
My friends saw me appearing from our bushes, and enthusiastically beckoned me over:
"Harold, please, come here and help us with your herbs. We've caught a porcupine!"
Immediately, I turned around and went back into our bushes, to collect a couple of tasty herbs!
I raced to our caravan, washed the herbs, and cut them into small pieces on my Mom's cutting board.
Two minutes later, I was back at our campfire, proudly carrying my nicely smelling herbs mixture.
Soon, our porcupine was roasted; and everybody got a slice of its tasty meat.
Although one slice wasn't enough to really still our hunger, it certainly helped to calm down our rumbling stomachs!
My friends licked their fingers clean, while they complimented me:
"Again, your herbs performed their tasty magic on our meat! From now on, we will call you 'PRINCE Cookie'."
I smiled at them, and performed a deep bow while I answered:
"Thank you, my beloved subjects; but I think that 'Prince Harold the Great Chef' sounds even better..."
For a moment, my surprised friends were silent.
Then, they started to tickle me mercilessly, until I promised to better my life and come down from my ivory tower.
In return, they promised me to stop calling me 'cookie', as soon as I would stop being the smallest kid in our group.
Well... in that case, I would have to wait until little Dimi no longer wet his diaper at night and joined us.
I grinned at my little friend, and he clearly understood what I thought and grinned back...
Now, I decided to ask my friends my very important question:
"Please, listen to what I want to ask you... Do you really WANT me to join you to that gadjo town tomorrow?"
This time, everybody was struck dumb, looking at me with big eyes and mouths agape...
Obviously, nobody had expected me to ask them such a strange question!
They looked at each other and back at me, clearly not knowing what to answer...
Then, Misha asked me, with a very surprised voice:
"Why the heck do you think we would NOT want you to join us tomorrow?"
"Well, my Dad told me the decision would entirely be up to me... and I've been thinking and rethinking, because I don't want to be a nuisance to any of you.
"First, I look different, because I've inherited my Mom's blond hair and blue eyes. Thus, any gadjo's will look at me first, and maybe call me a 'bastard' or 'crossbreed'.
"I also don't know how to 'beg', because I've never done it before. I want to see the 'gadjo world' only because I'm curious; and you know that 'curiosity killed the cat'...
"If I join you tomorrow, you will probably have to protect me, because I am still the smallest runt in our group and cannot defend myself from any nasty gadjo attacks.
"The only advantages I have are my captivating smile and my blue puppy dog eyes. But, maybe, that is not enough to gather any food and money.
"Now, please, give me your honest answer. Do you REALLY want me to join you tomorrow?"
Again, all my friends were dead silent, looking at me with shocked faces...
Why was that? Had I told them something weird, or had I been plain stupid?
Then, one of the other boys started to laugh, while he told me:
"Wow, little man, you are using big words for such a small boy! 'Inherited, crossbreed, advantages, captivating'... Are you sure you are only five years old?
"But, yes, you ARE our smallest runt; and we WILL protect you from any too mean gadjo's! We will even teach you how to beg properly, although it is not difficult at all.
"Now, I suggest a truce... As long as you are little, we will defend YOU with OUR lives; and, once you are our King, you will defend US with YOUR life!
"Do you want to think this over first, or do we have a deal?"
Of course, I jumped up, and started to smile from ear to ear.
I had never seen it this way before; and immediately accepted their truce!
We had a deal!
I rushed to my parents; to tell them that I had decided to accompany my friends tomorrow.
I wish you lots of Love in your life, and Profound Peace in your heart.
Harry AnderS, Dutch psychotherapist and writer of many 'books with a message'