Sunday, August 7, 2011

Generation of Gypsies

I've been marveling at the next generation in my family. I don't just mean Earbaby, who is a marvel unto herself, but also her cousins, my nieces and nephews, who show me what it's like to be young, spontaneous and adventurous. Truthfully, I don't think I ever flew through life by the seat of my pants, but I do harbor a fascination and admiration for those who can and do.

One of my nieces, Zoe, recently flew in for a three-week stay to help me with my recuperation after my surgery. I had been feeling badly that she was coming this far for vacation and I wasn't going to have the strength to make it fun for her. She and her mother, my younger sister, had been coming out for a few weeks every summer from the time she was five years old to high school age. She was there when my husband and I first started dating. She was our flower girl/junior bridesmaid at our wedding. She spent time with her new baby cousin after Earbaby was born.

When she graduated high school, she and another niece met us in Florida for a Disney vacation. We've watched her grow and blossom over all these years.

And now this beautiful young woman, a recent university graduate, was coming out, sans mom, to help me. She assured me that was her main objective. And she did help. A lot. When I was feeling stronger, we tackled and conquered two of three cluttered closets and one cluttered corner. She was disappointed that we didn't get to the final closet, although I have assured her I'm now inspired to do it myself. Or, maybe I'll wait for her next visit!

Anyway, Zoe also had a friend, Noelle, who is moving to our city for a year with the VISTA program. She was here training and then was to spend a night, or maybe two, with us until her apartment was ready at the first of the month. Their plans were in flux. They had a rough idea of when Noelle would stay here, and with all my nieces, I've learned to go with the flow.

When I was growing up, there had to be a plan. But with this next generation, life is an adventure. While we made reservations on planes, trains, buses, and spelled out itineraries, these young people call a few hours before they arrive to ask about sleeping on a relative's couch, or they decide to visit a city and wander through the bus station deciding at the last minute how to reach their destination by the cheapest route possible.

They are as free and unencumbered as gypsies.

Zoe moved in with her grandmother, my mother, after graduating college. Well, sort of. Her stuff is there. But she doesn't commit to staying there every night. Sometimes she stays with her mother. Sometimes with  friends, or her other aunt, our older sister, who is raising gypsies of her own. Zoe appearing at her doorway at any hour is never a problem. "Oh, hello," she'll say. "You spending the night?" Her also grown children are around the same age, so Zoe is just one of hers.

And, apparently, you can bring friends too. My older sister doesn't flinch when you show up and bring friends. Or you call and say you're coming to town and plan on staying with her. If there's not an extra bed (it's a small apartment), there's always a couch, or chair, or floor.

But we didn't grow up that way. Rare trips to see relatives were planned with the precision of a military operation. You knew where you would stop for the night, where you would sleep and when you would go on the road. No one called you an hour beforehand and asked to stay. There was no such thing as a sleepover with friends, spontaneous or otherwise.

EB is, happily, part of this more casual line of thinking. Although we try to explain that we don't just impose on people, I actually try to let friends and family know that seeing them is never an imposition. We live in a small house ourselves, but I'd like to think that if my whole family came out and needed to stay, we'd make room, on beds, couches, chairs, and floors.

Zoe and Noelle took off for New York for a weekend while they were both here. They didn't have a plan. I dropped them off at the bus station and they decided to just wing it. Eventually I got a text that night that they were two hours into a five-hour bus trip. They had no idea where they were going to stay. They just wanted to go to New York and see what happened.

Ordinarily I would have been horrified. Who does that? No hotel, no relatives, no place to stay?

About 36 hours later, they were back. They were exhausted from hours of walking, had finally broken down and got a hotel room around 4 a.m., but loved every second of their trip. Zoe had tried to connect with a family member, and even a relative from my husband's family, but wasn't deterred when none of those options panned out.

How I would have loved to be of that mindset. But how scared I'm going to be when Earbaby gets to that age and becomes part of the band of gypsies my sisters and I are apparently raising. I  hope she's just as smart, intelligent, and courageous as her cousin. I hope she seeks adventure, but doesn't take foolish chances or rely too much on the kindness of strangers. I hope she never loses her sense of adventure. And when she plans on sometimes flying by the seat of her pants, I hope the flight is fun.

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