The first time I met Gypsies was the summer of 1964. I was 17, wearing a patterned skirt, my hair was long then, pulled back in a clip. I had on gold hoop earrings. My sister Pearl and I were walking down West Grand Blvd. to the Main Library. We passed a house like the one pictured above. Three little girls ran off the porch and began to walk down the street with us.
“Are you Gypsy?” they asked me. I wasn’t, I told them. My sister assured them that we weren’t. They weren’t talking to her, they said. Was I sure? I was sure. When we got to the first cross street, they turned and ran back to their house.
Several months later, an article came out in the Sunday Detroit Free Press Parade Magazine. There was a picture of the three little girls. It was all about being a modern Gypsy in Detroit. The man was their grandfather, identified as the head of their family’s clan.
In 1968 I was an art student at Wayne State. I had been to the Utrecht art supply store on Woodward. As I was on my way back to Campus, some women were sitting on the porch of a large house. They were wearing long skirts and of various ages.
“Want your fortune told?” One of them called out. What if it was a bad one? I thought. No, I called back and kept moving. I sometimes wonder what they would have told me was coming up if I had stopped.
In the early 1980s I was living in Mississippi. One summer afternoon, I was visiting my friend Carrie Ann, when a woman about my age came by in a pickup selling sets of hand made wooden porch furniture. She had an incomplete set at a reduced rate and I bought it. She drove them down the road to my house and said I reminded her of her cousin. She reminded me of my cousin Barbara, I told her.
No caravans of any kind were involved, but this is what I remembered when I saw the Sepia Saturday prompt for this week.
When I was growing up we spent Saturdays at my mother’s parents house, along with my cousins Dee Dee and Barbara and later, Marilyn. When the weather was good we spent it outside in the backyard. There was a vegetable garden, lots of flowers and space for anything we could think of.
In the summer of 1953 I turned 7 in August. Dee Dee turned 10 in September. Barbara had already turned 6 in January. Pearl was 4.5 until December. Poppy was 64. He would retire in December of that year when he turned 65. The yard was surrounded on all sides by a wooden fence that made it feel like a world apart. In the photographs I can see the big house across the alley and a factory on Warren but when I was playing in the yard I didn’t much notice those things.
Pearl and I are holding dolls and I have a purse I remember getting when we lived in Springfield, MA. A young lady who might have been the church secretary had a grown up purse just like it. It was brown leather and had a golden metal clasp that turned to open and close. Looks like collards with the poison Poppy sprinkled to kill the cabbage worms. I think I see a little cabbage butterfly holding on to the underside one of the leaves.
I am standing up at the table where Barbara and I are making something. Dee Dee is sitting on the arm of the swing. She was probably taking Pearl somewhere on the magic carpet (aka swing) the rider would have to say “Geni of the magic carpet, go, go, go!” and then Dee Dee would take you someplace magic. She would tell you where it was when it was time for you to get out of the swing. Dee Dee was in charge of all the magic. Each of our households had a little, invisible fairy that lived in the mud castle we built and rebuilt at the foot of the apple tree. Their’s was named Lucy and ours was Pinky. She also kept a box full of prizes that she gave out at appropriate times. I remember packages of soda crackers, prizes from cereal boxes and pieces of chewing gum.
Here Pearl and I are standing on the grassy part of the yard. The flowers are in full bloom behind us with the vegetables back behind them. We often made the saw horses into mounts. I see my purse over there on the grass to the left.
I have participated in Sepia Saturday for so many years that it is hard for me to come up with new photos when the same sorts of prompts come around. This week I am recycling a post from 2012.
My maternal grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, was born 129 years ago on March 12, 1888, in Lowndes County, Alabama. She died on August 13, 1974 in Detroit, Michigan. You can read more about my grandmother in this post Fannie Mae Turner Part 1.
I am the same age as my grandmother was when we posed together on her back steps. Looking at the photograph below of me and my granddaughter made me think about the endless circle and the passage of time.
This shot was taken in our living room in the parsonage of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass. I just noticed the reflection of my father taking the picture last night. I looked everywhere for that teapot in later years but it was lost in one of the various moves. It was blue with a gold design over it. The couch was with us for many years. Eventually the cushions were covered in reddish leather, or something like it. I remember that table, which was also around for a long time. And those little plastic records my sister and I used to play on our little phonograph.
Bringing this back from August 2011 for this weeks Sepia Saturday prompt showing a mirror and the reflection of the photographer. If only I had a rose behind my ear like Billie Holiday.
Taken at Old Plank about 1963. Me with my cousins, Blair, Jan and Dale. They seem to be trying to pose for the photographer while I am about to cause trouble with that ball. I was a senior at Northwestern High School in Detroit. Old Plank was 30 minutes outside of Detroit near Wixom. We had 2 acres with a big house and although there was talk of moving there, we didn’t. We went for weekends to get out of the city until 1967, after the riot when the printing business lost the businesses that burned or left. At the same time, a man bought the barn and let his chickens and hogs run lose. Before he and Henry came to blows, they sold him the house.
There were two more photographs taken that same day. I think they were taken in the order shown below. My uncle Henry took the photos and developed them at the print shop that he and Hugh ran at the time – Cleage Printers.
Here I am under the apple tree with my cousin Barbara where we built and rebuilt a castle for our fairies. Each family had one. Ours was Pinkie my cousins was Lucy. In between the castles we made various dirt pies and cakes. That little black utensil next to me was a sifter. It had holes punched in the bottom and we sifted the dirt with it.
We used to walk up the plank against the back fence and look out into the alley. Nothing really exciting out there, most of the time although I remember the police chasing a man through there once. I am pretty sure we were not standing on the plank watching. If we did, it was only for as long as it took an adult to call us inside While the chase went on.
It must be spring because we can see that there is no garden bu the Pussy Willow bush in the background seems to have buds. We are wearing our light jackets (or “jumpers” as Poppy called them.) and overalls. My saddle shoes are horribly dirty. My socks had probably slid down inside of them. Barbara is wearing buckled shoes but her socks look quite saggy. In the spring of 1955 I would have been 8 and Barbara would have been 7. She is missing a tooth, but not those you loose when you are 6.
In the fall my grandmother made the best applesauce with the apples from that tree. They were not the kind you eat uncooked. In spite of the sticky stuff my grandfather painted around the tree trunk, there were worms in the apples and they were very small and sour. They made the best applesauce ever though, with lots of cinnamon.
My sister Pearl held an arm full of leaves. My mother held our hands. I held my doll. We were standing in the vacant lot near the parsonage of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Click for another post about life on Union Street in Springfield.