I think old wives tales are silly, and I don’t consider myself superstitious. Yet, I find myself knocking on wood, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, refusing to walk under ladders, and Xing my windshield with my finger if I see a black cat when I am driving. Why? Because my mother used to do it. Where else would I come up with such comical habits?
I remember, when I was a child, opening and closing an umbrella in the house and having my mother walk in and throw a tantrum over it. She feared the house was going to burn down because of it. She was always careful to not open her umbrella until she was on the porch. Being the rebel I was, I often played with an open umbrella in the house…as long as Mama wasn’t home. To this day, every time I consider opening my umbrella before heading out in the rain, I hear Mama yelling, “No! No! Do you want your house to burn down?” I went to the grocery store the other day in the rain. When I left the store I opened my umbrella while I was still inside. Talk about guilt! No, the store did engulf itself in flames.
I also remember a picture falling off the wall one day. Mama freaked out worrying that someone was going to die. I think someone she worked with died about a week or two later, and she reminded us about that picture falling off the wall. I remember her also saying that a bird flying into the window was a sign of death. Yeah, the bird’s death, I’d think as we stared at the lifeless winged creature on the ground.
I used to panic when I broke a mirror. You know that is supposed to curse you with seven years of bad luck? I have broken so many mirrors that I shouldn’t have any good luck for the rest of my life. In fact, I broke another one about six months ago, and I laughed. I figured seven more years wasn’t going to matter at the rate I was going.
Well, I step on sidewalk stones because I could never carry the burden of breaking my mother’s back by stepping on a crack. I don’t risk bad luck by walking underneath ladders. I refuse to pick up coins that I find tail side up as they are supposed to bring bad luck as well. I even carried a pink rabbit’s foot for good luck as a child. However, I don’t allow crickets that find their way into the house to stay. I do have my limits.
My father used to tell me that if I swallowed watermelon seed I’d grow watermelons in my tummy. I used to worry about that one. And he also said if I ate too much watermelon I was going to pee my bed. I used to wake up dreaming I was peeing. Luckily, the bed would still be dry. He also used to predict rain by the upturned leaves on the sycamore trees…that one I have seen.
My folks used to have all kinds of saying when I was young. If your ear itched, someone was gossiping about you. If your nose itched, company was coming. If your foot itched, you were going on a trip. If the palm of your hand itched you were going to receive money. If you bit your tongue while eating, you’d told a lie. It was bad luck to wear opals. If you pulled out a grey hair, ten more would grow back in it’s place. We weren’t allowed to swim for a full hour after eating. I never adhered to that rule when I grew up, and I must say that my children nor my husband and I have ever gotten cramps for not waiting.
The most absurd thing my mother ever made us do was to go to bed and hide under the covers during thunderstorms. I never could figure out quite how the covers were going to protect us but was too afraid to question her. We’d be burning up with sweat streaming down our faces, but we wouldn’t budge until the lightening and thunder ended. After I grew up, I asked my mother about it. Her reply was that we were driving her crazy, so that was how she managed to maintain peace when she was stuck with us in the house. Did I follow suit and do that to my own kids? No, but I was surely tempted!
My all time favorite wives tail was making a wish on the dried breastbone of a chicken or turkey. Two people pull on it while making wishes. Whoever got the long piece was the one whose wish was supposed to come true. My sister and I used to fight for it. Even Dirt Man and I used to do it in the early years of our marriage. Our kids even carried on the tradition when they were little. It was more like a game. I don’t think anyone’s wishes ever came true.
So, if you come by my house and I’m knocking on wood or jumping stone to stone on the sidewalk, I’m really not crazy…it’s all my Mama’s fault! Besides, remember I don’t believe in all that foolishness.
This is my Spin for Sprite’s Keeper on Old Wives Tales.