Trudging through the snow this morning, I remembered a story my grandmother used to tell to me.
It was about Papo Jiv (Grandfather Snow) who lived on a mountain above the village where she stayed as a child. Every winter, Papo Snow would see the fires of the Roma villagers and get jealous. He sent his children (jivunji čerxenja – snow stars, or as my non-Romani friends know them, snowflakes) down to the village to see why they were so happy, to learn the songs that the villagers sang, and to bring back the mysterious light that flickered and illuminated the Roma as they danced. But, the children were so enraptured by the beautiful singing, dancing, and stories of the Roma that they didn’t want to return, piling upon themselves into big drifts, all trying to see what was going on around the fire.
Every night they crept closer and closer to the center of the village where the fire was kept burning, until they were close enough to touch it. One by one, the jivunji čerxenja crept closer to Baba Jagoři (Grandmother Little-Fire), and one by one, they fizzle-popped and disappeared in a puff of smoke, floating back to the mountain and Grandfather Snow. As each of his children came back crying, telling of beautiful songs and Grandmother Little-Fire, Grandfather Snow became more and more angry and sent more and more of his children down to the village – but still, each one came back nothing but a puff of wet steam.
Eventually, Grandfather snow was so angry that he gathered up all his children and started down the mountain himself, swearing that he would settle this once and for all.
As the big, rolling, jivalo bršind (snowstorm) headed for the village, the people fed Grandmother Little-Fire all the logs and wood they could find, some of them even giving her their own beds, chairs, and doors. Soon, she was so big and fat that it looked as though the whole village was on fire. When Grandfather snow finally arrived, Grandmother Little-Fire was not small anymore and easily matched his angry winds and blizzards with her warmth and flickering flames. Every time Grandfather Snow tried to smother her, the villagers would feed her some more wood; but every time that Grandfather snow faltered and lost strength in a fizzle of steam, the villagers sang louder and fed Grandmother even more!!
Soon, Grandfather Snow had no strength left. Quickly, he turned tail and ran back up the mountain, hugging the very top scared that Grandmother Little-Fire would chase him. Now, every winter the villagers give Baba Jagoři a special place in their homes, as well as in the vatra (center of the village). They sing to her and feed her all winter long and in return she gives them her children, the umblaljora (sparks) to keep themselves warm and cook good food.
And, every winter Papo Jiv still sends his children, the jivunji čerxenja, to spy on the villagers, but he still hasn’t been able to learn the secret of why the villagers are so happy or extinguish the bright warmth of Baba Jagoři and her children.