She hated Friday the 13th.
She would turn the car around if a black cat crossed the street in front of her.
And mirrors? She once yelled at me when I held my baby up to one in a German restaurant.
“That’s bad luck before her first birthday!”
My mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, was superstitious.
I, too, used to be.
I believed that if you broke a mirror, you’d have seven years’ bad luck.
We all know what happens if you step on a crack, right?
For you young’uns, it means you’ll break your mother’s back.
And never, ever walk under a ladder.
If you spill salt, throw it over your shoulder.
Don’t open an umbrella inside.
Knock on wood when you mention something yet to happen that might go wrong.
Cross your fingers so that something you want to happen will happen.
Find a penny, pick it up. All the day you’ll have good luck.
Don’t set your drink down after a toast until you’ve taken a sip.
Be careful when there’s a full moon out.
If you don’t do (and therefore break) the chain letter, something bad will happen.
And on and on and on. It’s a German ancestor thing. Germans were believers of all kinds of crazy things. Actually, all cultures have their own superstitions. Like yellow flowers mean a funeral. And sneezing was a bad omen, that the person might become ill. That’s why people would say Gesundheit, German for health.
Jack-o-lanterns were to ward off the evil spirits. They were carved from turnips. Mirrors were covered when a person died so his or her soul could leave the body peacefully and not see its reflection.
Why have humans believed these things for centuries? Long ago, people didn’t know how things worked, or coincidental things scared them, or they made up stuff to explain the unknown.
Palm readings. Tarot cards. Psychics. These people make their money by getting people to believe in the supernatural. Superstitions and supernatural are related.
Am I a believer? Not usually. I used to think they would come true. It fed right into my OCD fears, obsessed that something bad was going to happen. Little did I know that not everyone had the same fears, that their brains had the right chemistry to keep them unafraid of every little thing.
I am happy to say that even though OCD wasn’t a term anyone knew back then, and even though there were no meds to treat OCD (unless you count frontal lobotomies), I managed to live to be this old and to be relatively successful.
The most successful? No way. I wouldn’t call myself carefree. The closest I get to that feeling is when I am writing, or gardening, or even reading an engaging book. OMG, I almost forgot dancing! These things free me from the obsessive thoughts and worry that I have inherited from other people, who shall remain nameless but who also worried a lot.
Okay, my mom.
And my maternal grandfather, who built us a bomb shelter when I was at the impressionable age of seven, when a scary world became even scarier, a huge earthen tumor in the backyard to remind me every day.
Don’t build a bomb shelter on a Tuesday.
That’s not really a superstition.
I just made it up.