Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Raggle Taggle Gypsies

O what care I for my house and my lands,
What care I for treasure-O,
What care I for my newly-wedded lord,
For I'm off with the Raggle Taggle Gypsies-O.

I am starting to believe we have a deeply rooted sense of our selves very early on. Hopefully our families help us foster that sense of self. This isn’t always the case but this story is not about picking on families. Parents do what they think is best and as you get older if you find it didn’t work, well, grow up, quit blaming them and get on with your life your way.

Personal evolution involves expanding our social circles beyond family and trying on different personalities. We need to feel different feels and smell different smells and hear different hears. As the years pass we eventually reach a point when we’re comfortable with ourselves and we care less about what others say, including our well meaning families, but during the process of evolution we do care what others say and we are not always sure footed enough to stand our ground when we think “I feel like I want to run off to Rome and paint but the world says I should go to college and get married.” Here in America we do not value the eccentric so much. People who don’t follow the norm are sometimes characterized as drunk, drug addicted, shiftless, lazy, irresponsible ne’er do wells. Even those who become successful are not always welcomed in polite society. Keith Richards is great on stage, but would you invite him to Sunday dinner? If you answered “yes” this story is for, and more than likely about, you. If your answer is an unequivocal “no”, read on anyway so you can learn about the raggle taggle gypsies that may be in your life.

When I was a little girl in Midland, Texas we had an enormous console stereo in the living room. Stereos back then were pieces of furniture. My dad had lots of records and I learned to love listening to music very early. It rubbed off on all of us. I feel I have fairly eclectic taste which I attribute to a large family living in a small house. My brothers, my sister, and my dad all had their music choices and I listened to all of them. There were five kids, two parents, and any number of dogs and cats at any time in a three bedroom house. We shared bedrooms, we shared one phone number, we shared dinner time as a family with the television off, and we shared the stereo . . . sort of. I had a pink record player in the room I shared with my sister and I believe the boys had a record player in their room, but if you wanted the good sound you had to go in the living room with the monolith that played in hi fi. You could stack about 57 records on it, they’d all drop one by one, when they finished you’d turn the whole stack over. My brothers introduced me to The Kinks, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and some 60’s folk sounds at a young age and it stuck. My dad liked country music, he liked some gospel, and he liked hootenanny. I loved dancing around the living room standing on my daddy’s feet. There is a traditional folk song called “The Raggle Taggle Gypsies”. In this song a woman has a lovely house, fine clothes, and a new husband. One night the raggle taggle gypsies come singing at her door and she spontaneously, almost blithely, gives up all her finery and security to run off with the gypsies. I loved that song and I loved my vision of the woman who runs away with the gypsies, raven haired with a mischievous grin.

I remember as a very little girl being so intrigued by her fire and her love of excitement over comfort. I thought “I’ll probably do that someday. That sounds like something I’ll do when I grow up.” As an adult I told this story to the Black Dogs Dad, his response was “and that’s what you did.”

And that’s what I did.

I didn’t realize it until many years after I was divorced but it was. My ex husband is an exceptionally nice man and he deserved someone better for him than me. I’m glad to report he has found her. When I was young I had no idea who I was and I looked to him to “save” me and define me. Thank you Steve for all that you put up with then. Under the guise of being a “Mrs. So and So” I didn’t have to discover Laura Ellen as an individual. But did I already know who I was and wish I was someone else? Was I destined to bring Juliette Binoche’s “Chocolat” character to life? Do we already know who we are but not know how to be who we are?

As I mentioned earlier, often times our well meaning families veer us off the path of “whom we are meant to be” and on to the path of “whom we would like you to be in order to save us all embarrassment should you decide to become someone unsavory”. Parents are happy when their children show an appreciation, even an aptitude for the arts, but rarely is it encouraged as a path to follow except as a hobby. Parents can be so afraid of their children being hurt that they fence them in and discourage the fine art of flying high. DO NOT GO UP THERE WHERE THE AIR IS CLEAR AND YOU CAN SEE FOR MILES! STAY DOWN HERE WHERE ALL IS MYOPIC AND BEIGE AND SAFE!!! It is with the best intentions, but the fear is then passed on and thus we have a covenant controlled nation of fearful folks living in matching houses painted varying shades of pantyhose colors . . . taupe, ecru, sand. If you’re feeling like the off white sheep in your suburban neighborhood maybe you could paint your shutters olive, you crazy wing nut you.

The world needs all kinds of people and I mean no disrespect to the life choices people make. It’s great that some people have an affinity for numbers and want to make lists of numbers in rows and columns that match up and balance. If people like me were left to fulfill tasks involving numbers the current recession would be much more akin to a downward spiral of all industrial civilizations. It’s great that there are those who enjoy following the rules and coloring within the lines. You all help keep the goofy people in the world stay grounded and remind us to pay our bills, put gas in our cars, and wear pants when leaving the confines of home.

BUT, the world needs the goofy, color outside the lines, pants forgetting people too. All the freaky people make the beauty of the world. Where would modern medicine be if Leonardo DaVinci had not been curious enough to cut open cadavers? What if Copernicus just said “Sure, we’re at the center of the universe, it’s all about Earth”? What if Columbus hadn’t tried to sail to the end of the flat earth and what if all the members of The Clash had just gotten factory jobs and never recorded “London Calling”? Who wants to live in that panty hose colored world?

In the years that have gone by I have tried on lots and lots of prototypes trying to find who I am, who I am meant to be, and who I want to be. I have tried to fit in and do what the rest of the world deems comfortable and socially acceptable, I have rubberbanded in the opposite direction and tried to be much more of a rebel than I really am. We try on these ill fitting personalities because we are looking outward at others and are concerned with how they see us. I believe I am finally on to something with who I am, because I am looking inward at me, and because I am old enough to not be as concerned with what others think. I know that as far back as I can remember, I knew I was an unconventional girl. I knew I was fascinated by those that leave the finery and security of home to run off and live a freer life with the raggle taggle gypsies. I knew I liked skirts that twirl out when you spin around and big dangly earrings. I know that in the country of Laura Ellen childlike glee abounds. I know that in that childlike country I can be hurt and rather than saying “That hurts” I will often act like a petulant child and say something snotty. I have also learned from others who have visited my country that it is ok to say “That hurt me”.

Do we ever know who we are? Do we always know who we are? Is it a constant process or do we make some grand discovery of deep inner identity and then plateau into the peace of self knowledge, and if so, is the plateau the end of the journey? I like the idea of constantly changing, evolving and growing. I think it’s a must and at the same time, we must honor the core of ourselves. Our core spirit helps us to maintain some relationships, to know when to let others go, when to question people and when to question ourselves. To know who you are and what is right for you is to know your world and be able to share it lovingly, as well knowing when it is being improperly invaded and you must advise others to not tread on you.

Learn to love you and know where you can bend and where you must remain adamant and, as Shakespeare so poignantly said . . . TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE.


  1. you are simply amazing lovely laura...i like how you point out the idea of constantly changing and evlolving..i feel as though i am growing and changing's a wonderful process and i am so glad to have people as wonderful and lovely as yourself to be a part of that...and i like how bob marley revised shakespear and so eleqouently put it with 'got to be true to myself' you lots and keep on writing.. you were born to write

  2. Jenn, thank you so much. You are growing and changing everyday, I can't wait to see what's next for you.

  3. thanks lovely...i meant evolving...had to redeem myself