Here’s something new I’ve discovered about my sixty-something self: I’ve become superstitious. I don’t mean that I refuse to leave the house on the 13th—especially when it falls on a Friday—or that I avoid walking under ladders (although this doesn’t come up very often). Most of my superstition revolves around illness, even death, or its possibility.
For example, like everyone else in America, we received our Census 2010 form in mid-March. The note that came with it says in ultra-bold letters: “Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today.” Then, the first question asks how many people are living in my home as of April 1, 2010. It’s only March now. What if I say “2” and then, God forbid, something happens to one of us before April 1? If I mailed in the form before the deciding date, am I jinxing my life or my husband’s? Silly, I know. Yet…
I also tend to knock on wood a lot, and not just when something is spoken, like “I haven’t had a cold in six months!” I also do it, or at least want to, when I think something like that. Intellectually, I don’t really believe that tapping on the dresser is going to prevent me or my loved ones from getting sick, but somehow it makes me feel in control. This leads me to think I may have a touch of OCD, which, if I let it, will set me off on a whole new path of worry.
Where did I get this behavior? I think back to when my first daughter was born in the mid-60s. My mother was peering into her crib, remarking over how beautiful she was, alternating with utterances of “pooh pooh”—but thankfully not spitting—which is supposed to ward off the Evil Eye that retaliates at such declarations of beauty, health, and well-being. She also tied a red ribbon around one slat of the crib to reinforce the pooh poohs.
But in those days, and decades after, I wasn’t nearly as superstitious as she was. I was optimistic and, although realistic, did not think disaster was going to strike at any time. To be fair to my mother, she lost her mother tragically when my grandmother was fatally struck by a car. My mother was 14 and the youngest of six children. So I always understood why she was determined to do everything to ward off that Evil Eye. I was just as determined to not be that way.
And here I am now, fraught with my own brand of superstition, just short of pooh poohing. I still haven’t mailed the Census 2010 form, but I did fill it out with a bold declaration of two [healthy] people living in our household. Pooh pooh.