First of all, I would like to say that I am not writing this in any form of racism, and it does not have any purpose to shame and/or make fun of gypsies.
The story is based on actual events.
In Hungary we have this thing twice in a year, when you can put out your junk on the street and anyone can come and take it. By junk, I mean old furniture you don’t need, bits and bobs from around the house, etc…
I was helping my mom with sorting out our garage and we found my old roller. I was trying really hard that day to get above my hoarder self, and as a first step, I said “Mom, we don’t need this. I’m not going to use it ever again. It’s already old, I doubt that my children could play with it. Let’s throw it out, someone may shit their pants for it!”
So we did that. I walked outside with it, and a gypsy boy, maybe around 6 ran up to me immediately, and asked if he could have it.
As I handed over the roller, he said something.
“Oh man, it’s literally christmas! Thank you so much, ma’am!”
“I’m not really a ma’am… You can call me Lili if you want to!”
“Okay, thank you Lili!” At this point his father shouted at him to be more useful, so he started saying his perfectly learned lines “Do you have any duvets, unused things made out of metal, or clothing?”
“I think so! If you wait I don’t know, maybe half an hour I’ll collect all I can find, ‘kay?”
He happily stormed back to his father, and I, completely determined to give him everything we don’t need, came back to the garage.
As I said, a rough 38 minutes later, I went back with two boxes, containing pillows, shoes, and metal.
He ran to me, and started laughing.
“And you are fucking Santa!” He said as we started carrying the things back to his father, who was delighted by them.
“I have a box of shoes too, you just need to look through them, if you’d like.”
So he came back with me, and started looking in the box, almost as big as him.
“Can I ask your name?”
“It’s Eduardo. Hey, you don’t know how good you made this day for us!”
He giggled as he almost fell into the box.
“You said that it’s like christmas..Is it really?”
“Yeah, I mean of course.” He paused “Christmas isn’t too good for us. I’m comparing it to real christmas! For us, it’s cold, and sometimes we don’t have a tree because we need to chop it up to put it in the fireplace.” He shrugs “And we get a whole load of things this time of the year! And everyone is just so happy! You know, that’s the kind of thing that’s good.”
“Hey, umm.. I’m kind of a wannabe writer, can I ask you some more questions?”
“A writer?” He glances out of the box “Sure, go ahead. Just don’t tell my father!”
“I won’t. So, how many of you are in one household?”
“Currently eleven. There’s me, my two sisters, my four brothers, my parents, my dad’s sister and my Grandma.”
“How many rooms do you have for all those people?”
“Well, there’s the kitchen, and there is a living room, where the boys sleep at night, and then a bedroom, where my parents and girls sleep. Oh, and we have a little kitchen garden too!”
“Do you grow you own food? Vegetables and stuff?”
“We try… We have tomatoes, paprika, sweet corn in the summer, but it’s never predictable how much we can harvest. You know, sometimes we have to make a plan, about who eats when. For example, if I eat a fairly big dinner on Monday, then I’m not going to eat on Tuesday, and I’m only going to have small portions for the rest of the week. Like a piece of bread with tomatoes, maybe.”
“If my questions get too intimate, just say it, and I’ll stop.”
“Okay…Oh shit, these shoes are fucking cool!”
He says as he reaches for a pair of old boots.
“What do your parents do?”
“My mum is a cashier and my dad does all kinds of things, I don’t really know…”
“Are they the only ones working in the family?”
“No. My aunt is a cleaner lady, and my oldest sister, who is fifteen, she works with her. My other sister is only four, so she can’t work yet. Umm… My oldest brothers work too, but I dunno what.”
“How old are they?”
“Fifteen and sixteen. But you know, I’m not useless, I work too! I sell things on the street. I’m useful.I am.”
‘Who says that you’re not useful?”
“My father, all the time. And sometimes my siblings too. But I am useful! I found you, and I got a load of things!”
He stands up straight and pulls a serious face.
“Do you think that I’m useful?” His voice cracks “Or do you think that I’m useless too?”
“I think that you are really useful! From all the things that you’ve told, you seem pretty legit to me!”
I smiled, and he smiled too.
“Good.” He slouched back into the box “I really like you!”
“That’s really nice of you! I like you too.”
“I think I finished with looking through the box, but I don’t want to go.” He looked at me with sad eyes.
“Hmmm..I’m sorry but this is really all we had.”
“It was more than enough. Thank you so much!”
“Thank you, for answering my questions! You were really useful to me!”
A proud smile appears on his face.
“I’ll help you bring these shoes to he car!”
And so I did. His father was more than happy to see his son returning with seven pairs of shoes.
“Your son has been really nice. You should be proud of him.”
He ignored my words, only turned a bit moody.
“Thank you ma’am.”
“She’s not a ma’am dad, she is Lili!”
“Get in the fucking car son, you’ve done enough for today!” He shrieked at him. Eduardo looked me in the eye once more, and then sat in the car.
I waved as I was leaving him, and mouthed ‘You are useful. Don’t forget.‘
I might see him the next time too.
By Lili Halder