My Gypsy childhood
September 7, 2009 4:37 PM   Subscribe

Roxy Freeman was born into an Gypsy family. For years, her family travelled around Ireland in a horsedrawn wagon, without electricity or formal schooling, getting by on picking fruit and selling horses they bred, before settling in Norfolk. Roxy taught herself to read, devoured books, and, after travelling the world for a number of years, decided to go to university, a move which would require her to completely change her way of life. Living in a flat in Brighton, a way of life which she finds bizarre and alien, she has written about her childhood, her family's culture and the difficulties and prejudices she encountered, for the Guardian.

The shift to a fixed, urban lifestyle wasn't an easy one: "I can't see or feel the change from one season to the next, I crave greenery, and I constantly wrestle with the emotion of feeling trapped. I spend half my life opening doors and windows, trying to get rid of the airless, claustrophobic feeling that comes with being inside. I get woken up by bin lorries, the rush-hour traffic and my neighbours shouting, instead of birdsong and the wind in the trees. I can't sense when it's going to rain because I can no longer smell it in the air, and when it does rain I can't hear it landing on the roof."
posted by acb (14 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
She actually wasn't born into a Gypsy family: her family are Irish Travellers. Travellers are itinerant, but they're a different ethnic group with different origins from the Roma.

I was actually really intrigued by her background: her father is a Traveller, but her mother is from an upper-class American background. It's like she's 50% Irish Traveller and 50% unschooled hippie kid.
posted by craichead at 4:55 PM on September 7, 2009

Oops! I take it back! They were Gypsies in Ireland, not Irish Travellers. Teach me to be a pedant!
posted by craichead at 4:57 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Someone recently was asking Mefi (of all people) whether they ought to name their daughter Roxy. This is the kind of person I have always thought of as a Roxy. And that's high praise. In 1990 -- flamenco dancing, baking, foraging, feeding a family? Hell, in 1990 I was proud I knew the Konami code.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:59 PM on September 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

So it's like she lived in a silver Airstream RV?
posted by orthogonality at 5:06 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are those typically drawn by horses?
posted by acb at 5:10 PM on September 7, 2009

Are those typically drawn by horses?

Yes, about 350.
posted by fixedgear at 5:23 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Autodidacticism and self-reliance? These must be those Gypsy values I've been hearing so much about lately.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2009 [21 favorites]

That was an interesting article. Thanks.
posted by scratch at 6:02 PM on September 7, 2009

Freeman a gypsy name?
posted by Postroad at 6:27 PM on September 7, 2009

Freeman a gypsy name?

Freeman is a very popular English surname adopted by people who have not previously had surnames, or who want to change their surnames, because of its obvious connotations It is not a Romani name, no.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:59 PM on September 7, 2009

This is why I like Metafilter.

(Also Freeman's Sporting Goods in NY is an excellent if terribly expensive shop/cafe/bar. You can drop in for a cut at the barber shop for not much. They use real blades for a shave. Also, it makes me think of Freeman's from The French Lieutenant's Woman and so there)
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 PM on September 7, 2009

About 15 years ago, when I first moved out, I took the subway one night, and this very attractive girl, who seemed to be my age was seriously checking me out.

This was unprecedented, because girls never looked at me. Ever.
And at the time, I was such a social boob when it came to the opposite sex; Girls were such a mystery to me - I had never spoken to many of them. But how I longed to keep company with a princess. I was a hopeless romantic.

So there I was, minding my own business, and there is this girl on the subway checking me out.

How I had the guts to do what I did, I will never know - but I walked up to her and started talking to her. "Does this train go to stop ABC?" I asked. And from there on, we started chatting. And we got along. And she was as gorgeous up close as she was from far.

My goodness, I thought. I'm on a roll here! I better not screw this up. Be cool, I thought.
So I was cool. I was so damn cool. I mean check this out - she asked me "So, do you always talk to complete strangers on the subway?" And without missing a beat, I said "Only the good looking ones." Not bad, eh?

"What's your name?" I asked.
Gorgeous. Just like you, I thought.

When my stop came, I got up, and said "It was so nice talking to you!"
She said "Well, if you're ever by the college, come see me sometime."
I said I wouldn't miss it for the world and I was looking forward to seeing you.

I strutted out of that subway station, back to my apartment and told my roomate about my encounter. "She was beautiful! She was smart! She was witty! She was kind! Her name was Roxy! I can't wait to see her again!"

"So did you get her phone number?"
"Her what now?"
"Phone number."
Oh crap.

I am happily married now, and wouldn't change my romantic life for anything in the world.

But sometimes I think about my first few years of freedom at 19 - my apartment, with my crappy part time minimum wage job, my nights eating Pho' at the Vietnamese restaurant, and my dreams of the future. And once in a while, my thoughts make their way back to the subway ride that night, when I met Roxy.

Wherever you are Roxy, I hope you are living a wonderful life, with people who love you, experiences to fulfill you, and wisdom to guide you. You will never know, how much you meant to that geeky, scrawny, lovesick guy you met on the subway that night.

posted by bitteroldman at 7:51 PM on September 7, 2009 [19 favorites]

Ah, bitteroldman, that's a truly lovely and touching story and only goes to show that the only thing that ever stops us is our limiting thoughts.

Bless you and the wee donkey that carried Mother Mary into Bethlehem.
posted by lometogo at 8:25 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

But bitteroldman, you never got Roxy's Gypsy tears? They cure AIDS, you know.
posted by orthogonality at 10:40 PM on September 7, 2009

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