You See Your Gypsy (or "Second Post in Three Months With a Stevie Nicks-themed Title")

We arrived in Jeddah about a year ago. Then, we were visitors, living out of suitcases and taking in oddities of Arabia with "Oh wow!"s or "Look at that!"s. Now, we live here. The things that were fresh and novel and sometimes disturbing have become commonplace and routine. Sweltering 5 a.m. jogs. Invisible women. Associating the term "restaurant" with a tiny entry area, a counter, and a mustached guy who isn't from Saudi Arabia making you a sandwich full of something only vaguely sanitary. Sea breezes. Endless sunshine. Gridlocked traffic at 1 a.m. Invitations to tea from perfect strangers on the small roads in the desert mountains.

"I see your gypsy. Just kidding. I'm blind."
Sometimes it's easy to stop noticing the wonder around us. To slowly go blind, your eyes gouged out by regimen, by the typical. And I guess that's one of the reasons I'm a gypsy passing myself off as a diplomat. I need to reset my surroundings every so often so I don't go blind. I need to scramble the typical until it becomes atypical. Better people than me don't need to uproot and jump a plane to a new country to spot the beauty around them, but what can I say. That's how I am.

My grandpa turned 91 a few weeks ago. He wrote his autobiography a couple years back and when I read it I noticed Grandpa moved around a lot too. Southern Utah. Southern California. Central Washington. Oregon. Idaho. I don't know all the reasons Grandpa moved his family a lot -- mostly it had to do with work, I suppose. But the actual reasons probably mean less than what I pretend Grandpa’s restlessness can teach me about myself. We all want to connect “then” with “now” to try to make some sense of the thicket of hormones and neural signals and electric pulses and supernatural flashes that make us who we are. We all want to understand what makes us tick, and what makes us tic.


My dad couldn’t sit still either. Moved from trucking job to trucking job every few years – rarely because he had to, usually because he was ready for change. New boss. New partners. New trucks. New routes. He doesn't have to articulate why he did it. I understand. Whether I understand his actual motives or motives I've made up and projected onto him, I don't know that it matters.

Maybe I'm restless because of a gene that Grandpa gave to Dad and Dad gave to me. Or maybe I learned it from watching Dad, and Dad picked it up from moving around all the time with Grandpa. Or maybe I'm a gypsy because I just think it's fun to be a gypsy. I don't really know. I stunk at both biology and psychology in college. But I was pretty good at not being able to decide on a major.

Sometimes, when the sun sinks behind the curtain of the Red Sea and hundreds of trillions of tiny water vapors are hanging in just the right places across the wet sky, Jeddah turns pink for three or four minutes. It's as though soft pastel light is reflecting everywhere from every angle, so that the houses and the asphalt and the cars and the palm trees seem to glow.

We were sitting on a park bench eating ice cream bars. Tess is too small to have her own bar, so she was yelling at Grace to give her bites, chasing her in circles around the bench. It was a typical evening, routine. And then the sun disappeared over the horizon and the Maghrib prayer call sounded, and Jeddah gleamed in pink phosphorescence. The atypical interrupted the typical, the commonplace yielded to the extraordinary. And I thought how you don't always need to go adventuring in search of some fresh source of beauty. Maybe sometimes the gypsies are so busy scouring new places for something novel that we forget that home can be pretty wondrous.