FIRST STEPS: PART ONE.
As a child, I became a gypsy at Halloween almost every year.
As a young adult, there was still some gypsy spirit that remained lurking within.
This cool tune provided a background theme song for my life in high school and college. During high school, I fancied myself a wanna- be free spirit, trapped in a dull conservative, blue-collar, New England mill town that was on its way downhill. Intuitively, I knew I needed to get the hell out if I didn’t want to go down with the ship.
I eagerly left grim Western Mass. behind me for a new and more glamorous existence in college at the University of Miami. I quickly fell in love with the carefree sunny tropical vibe of South Florida. I’d spend weekends on Miami Beach with few thoughts of the future. It took determination and focus to acquire a good tan. Gypsy in my Soul continued as a part of my musical sing to self repertoire.
On rare occasions, I’d convince a current boy friend to hit the road for a long and leisurely drive to the then, exotic, unspoiled Florida Keys. That improbable two lane highway floats between the aquamarine waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the turquoise Gulf of Mexico. Driving that road at sunset, I gasped at Nature’s extravagant display as the still waters reflected the towering clouds of a late summer Florida afternoon . That experience bordered on the spiritual.
My parents used to tell me I had “shpilkes,”because I stayed on the move whenever the opportunity presented itself..
For my yiddish-challenged readers:
Pronounced SHPEEL-kuhs, SHPEEL-kiss, or SHPEEL-keys. Made famous within English by Mike Myers in the Saturday Night Live skit “Coffee Talk.”
I think my parents were correct.
The Broadway song that celebrates shpilkes is a tune from the show Gypsy. I sang Some People with the same enthusiasm and vigor as Ethel Merman or Patti LuPone. I sang it as if it had been written for me. Every once in a while, I roll it out for an enjoyable, if dated, reprise.
At one point in my college life, as I listened to Ravel’s Bolero blasting on my hi-fi, I read a Life magazine cover story about the allure of Big Sur, I tried to convince my best friend that she and I should ditch school and hitch to the West Coast. She convinced me it wasn’t the best plan. As a young woman of that era, I did not have the guts to take that adventure by myself. That was a road not taken. The truth is, I hung somewhere between my desire to be a wild child and the reality of my conservative, nice Jewish girl upbringing. Big Sur remained out of reach.
I moved from the NorthEast to Athens, Georgia, in the 1970’s, when my husband accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Georgia. For the nine years that I lived in Athens, I was cautious about venturing outside of the city limits. Experience had taught me that in rural Georgia, as soon as anyone heard me speak, I’d immediately be branded a damn Yankee and a Jewish one at that. In the eyes of a certain kind of suspicious Southerner, I imagined they expected me to sprout devil horns at any moment. I went so far as to announce to my husband, that if I were to die in Georgia, he must promise not to bury me there. I needed to make another move. Far away.