Is it Friday (the 13th) Already?
I’m having a very difficult time coming up with a blog today. I think it’s because it’s Friday the 13th. It is, in fact, the second of three this year. According to some people, this makes 2009 the least-lucky year of the decade.
My grandmother was one of those people. She rarely left the house on a Friday the 13th; depending on the day’s numerology and/or horoscope forecast, she might not have left her bed. She was possibly the most superstitious woman this side of the Middle Ages.
Sometimes, as fetishes go, Gram's superstitions were charming. I spent many happy hours on the front lawn helping her search for four-leaf clovers to take to bingo night. (Thank goodness we could buy her rabbits’ feet keychains from a day-glo display at T, G&Y.) I loved the horseshoes over every door—each affixed to resemble a U so the luck didn’t drip out and make a mess. It was easy to avoid ladders since I feared heights, and mirrors since I feared my reflection even more. These days I still toss spilled salt over my left shoulder to blind Satan, and knock on wood to summon the help of tree faeries. I have to admit, however, that as I have grown older I have found Satan harder to blind and wood faeries harder to attract. (Perhaps the latter are merely annoyed. It would irritate me if people knocked on my house all hours of the day and night for centuries on end.)
Other times my grandmother’s superstitions have been a pain. Literally. I have practically broken my own back avoiding cracks and picking up pennies. I’ve never passed a wishing well without emptying my pockets. (In fact, I have begged on the street exactly once in my life, and only out of desperation. I really, really, really needed a penny.) I’ve even discussed with a full-grown Marine (when we both knew better) if a bird in a Humvee in Iraq could be the same "omen" as a bird in my grandmother's house. (The answer is no. That mission went without incident, except that I worried more than I should have.) Don’t tell me insanity isn’t genetic. I have proof.
Thirteens were the worst in my grandmother’s book. (Of silliness.) She held NASA responsible for disaster for merely considering a 13th Apollo mission. On the other hand, she had no truck with “fakers” either. You know who I mean: the skyscrapers that “skip” the 13th floor, the hotels that eliminate the 13th room, and the airports without a Gate 13 anywhere to be found. I ask you, who do they think they’re fooling? Certainly not my grandmother. In the last days of her life, battling cancer and too ill to recognize family, she nevertheless noted right off that the hospital tried to put her in Room 814. She would never stay in a room with a 14 in it for fear it was a trap. “You can call a pig a princess,” she would say, “but it’s still a pig.” (I’m not sure how that relates, but she said it so often I felt compelled to throw it in.) In this case, Room 814 was worse than tomfoolery. Add up the numbers. Now you understand the shrill screaming that was likely heard in the next block . . . and the next life. My grandmother died peacefully down the hall a few days later. It was a Friday, but certainly not the 13th. She’d have waited until Saturday if she’d had to.
Fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia, depending on if you trust AOL or Yahoo. (Tip of the Day: when it really matters, trust neither.) Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13. Apparently, my grandmother was not the only sufferer. President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and never hosted 13 guests (or multiples thereof) at a meal. Napoleon, President Herbert Hoover, and Queen Victoria were also said to be triskaidekaphobic.
I wasn’t . . . until today. It’s obviously a very unlucky day to blog. Will somebody please wrap this thing up for me? Tell me your superstitions. Do you have lucky socks? A favorite number? A ritual you won't leave the house without performing. (Remember this is a family blog.) And don't anybody dare slink away, I simply won't believe you've never made a wish on a birthday candle or waited for the first star at twilight.
Or is it just me?