The Kenwood Press
: 04/01/2015

Who gave you your start?

Donna Colfer

It was 1981 and I had just moved from Chicago to Glen Ellen, California. By comparison, this was beyond country living: it was a hick town. It didn’t take long though for me to feel at home here. I was hired at Good Finds, the second-hand store in Fetters Hot Springs, where I met my best friend. The two of us were given complete control of the store. We opened, closed and reconciled the drawer at the end of the day. It was “our” shop.

One day Gypsy walked into Good Finds. Gypsy was an eccentric woman in her seventies. She wore a tightly woven straw hat with a brim and a black velvet cape that reached just below her hips, and she always carried a fancy walking cane. She was all “dolled up,” as my father would say. She lived across the street and liked visiting us at the store when she needed to buy something or just wanted to talk for a while.

One day, when Gypsy found out that I needed a place to rent, she offered me one side of her duplex for $200 a month. It was perfect, and I was excited to live on my own for the first time!

Gypsy was in the business of reading cards, tea leaves and her crystal ball – hence the name. She also had a degree in psychology and was an author. Coming from a Catholic background in the suburbs of Chicago this sounded pretty weird to me and, I admit, a little scary. As it turned out, she was completely harmless. Before long, we developed a close relationship like a mother and daughter, confiding in one another and helping out where we needed it.

I lived next door to Gypsy for four years. Conveniently, there was a door in the middle of the shared living room wall that we left open much of the time. There were nights I would sit in her living room and listen to her talk until 2 a.m., completely enthralled as she shared her thoughts about spirituality, metaphysics, psychology and philosophy.

Gypsy’s living room was like stepping into a mysterious new world. The walls were lined with various masks from all over the globe. Lampshades were covered in deep red fabric and hung with fringe. Tables were draped in soft velvet with dark patterns and tassels. There were various statues – small and large – of Quan Yin, Buddha, Shiva and Ganesh peeking out of shelves and from corners of the floor. And, there were hundreds of books on shelves everywhere.

Hanging freely from a hook in the ceiling high up in the corner of the room was a Balinese “Rangda” mask. This three-dimensional headdress had huge eyes that stared at you, a big long tongue hanging out of its opened mouth and strings of real hair attached to the scalp. One evening Gypsy nonchalantly mentioned that this particular character would turn and stare at you if you concentrated on it long enough. I gulped as I looked at Gypsy with eyes like saucers and a half-hearted smile, pretending to be more intrigued than frightened.

Even though I had always worked in the accounting field – with its facts and figures – I became interested in Tarot cards, astrology, psychology and metaphysics. Gypsy had opened up a new world to me. Our late-night conversations expanded my thinking and set me on a path of exploration that I wouldn’t have dreamed was possible five years earlier.

As the years passed, I moved on to another home but Gypsy and I always remained close, visiting each other frequently. Then, 10 years later in 1991, Gypsy passed away leaving me all of her earthly possessions, her entire legacy! I was completely overwhelmed and very honored.

My “start” in California came from Gypsy. She set me on my feet financially, by leaving me her duplex, and spiritually, by opening my eyes to a vast world of philosophies. And for this I will be forever grateful. Writing about this memory has sparked something new in me that I have just begun to contemplate.

Has someone given you a start in life financially, emotionally or spiritually? Remember those special gifts you’ve been given: words of wisdom or advice, a helping hand, being listened to and understood. This is part of who you are now and contributes to how you make a difference in the world. Are you able to find the balance between what you are truly passionate about on the inside and a way to create it in the world? Maybe you’re only a memory away!