Wednesday afternoon was school free. When I returned home for lunch, which I did every day not just on Wednesday, I spotted already from afar an unfamiliar blue colour between a small copse of birch trees and my home.
I loved the look of those trees at anytime of the year. One of them stood out much taller. I liked to peel off their soft, silken bark. My mother said one should not cut deep into the bark of the birch because it will bleed. I could not resist and tried to carve my name into the bark. The letters looked crooked and the tree bled which made me feel bad and I did not finish my name.
In spring, heart shaped leaves unfurled in the softest apple green. They quivered like a ballet dancer en pointe with the slightest breeze. Towards summer the leaves changed to dark green and their shadows danced on the coarse grass. In autumn the leaves turned golden before their final dance to the ground.
The trees looked white and ghostlike in winter, gossamer shreds peeling from the trunks and limbs. Their soft shape merging into the white, misty landscape.
On the tallest and sturdiest of the birches my father had hung a swing on a branch. He had sanded and smoothed a piece of wood, carved my name into the seat and blackened the letters with a blowtorch. I loved to sit on the swing and move slowly to and fro. There was always a creaking sound when I swung forward. I liked to look up through the sunlit leaves into the blue of the sky.
Today I ignored the swing as my attention was drawn to a sky blue painted gypsy wagon. All was quiet when I walked around it. Small, neat windows surrounded by painted flowers. I wondered who had left it there and who lived in there.
I looked around and saw a girl coming towards the wagon. She carried a full bucket of water that slightly spilled over the rim.
To me she did not look at all like a Gypsy with black hair and a dark complexion. She looked rosy and a long red blond plait was hanging over her shoulder. I was rather disappointed with her looks. There was nothing exotic about her, no golden earrings and bangles, or colorful skirts. She was wearing a very ordinary, rather drab skirt and blouse.
I said hello and pointed to my house where I lived. I asked if I could help with the bucket. She shook her head and walked on towards her wagon. I followed her and asked her all sorts of questions, which she patiently answered. She opened the door, I asked if I could come in as I had never been inside a gypsy wagon.
I had seen the wagons of the circus people when my mother and I went to the side show. My mother did not let me near the wagons because she said the circus people do not take it kindly if one invades their privacy.
I was wondering if the girl would welcome me into her home. When Serafina, she said I can call her Fina, let me see her home, I was amazed how neat, colorful and comfortable everything looked.
She put her finger to her mouth and looked at me while she opened a curtain to reveal a tiny room with just enough room for a big, high bed and a small window. Where ever I looked there were flowers, the bedspread, the curtains the carpet, the walls were painted with flowers, it was like a flowering bower. In the middle of the bed slept a baby. Everything about it was tiny.It was only two month since it was born.
It was getting late and I had to go home to do my homework for school. I hoped she would still be here tomorrow. I wanted to visit her after school. Fina said if everything goes well she will stay for a week or two and than she has to move again. I wondered where her horse or tractor was to pull the caravan. There was no horse as the caravan was transported by train.
I mentioned that it must cost a lot of money to transport a caravan, so she better stay here for a long time. Fina said she can not decide how long she is allowed to stay. There were certain rules they had to obey.
I also met her husband, he had a big red moustache and I thought he did not like me as he ignored me completely. Perhaps he did not like me visiting his family. I thought he looked like a Walrus, but I did not say that to Fina as it would have been rude. He was not often there when I visited which I was glad about.
Fina knitted everyday tiny garments for her baby. She said bring your doll and I will knit an outfit for her. I asked my mother for wool. She gave me a jumper which was too small for me. There were different colours and Fina was very pleased when she saw it and I helped her to unravel the knitting and we made neat balls of wool, each colour separate.
One day, out of the blue, the wagon was gone like it had arrived, without an announcement.
A small card was in the letterbox. It said “Perhaps we meet again”. I have never forgotten Fina and her baby. She was kind and had a lovely voice when she sang. She had knitted underpants, socks and made a dress for my doll. Sometimes I thought I saw the blue wagon in the copse when I returned from school but it was only my imagination. We never met again.