When people marry, they usually discover new things about their partners. A dislike for returning library books, a penchant for Big Macs. And then there’s the clashing of family cultures. My husband’s clan were kind of superstitious and had certain beliefs about good and bad luck. Salt played a huge part in things. My family believed in God, the devil, and the consequential fallout of making the wrong choice. Luck played no part in anything and to even suggest such a thing put a black mark on your soul.
But according to my mother in law, there was a whole other dimension to consider. For instance, if you spilled salt, you’d better throw some over your shoulder. If you wanted to bind the devil (same guy, different theory) you’d also toss a little salt, left shoulder only. If my mother broke a mirror, it was a tough cleanup. For Clarence’s family, it meant seven years of bad luck. For someone like me with clumsy moments, this became a problem.
I remember talking with Clarence’s Baba, (who believed the earth was flat) and trying to pin down behavior she regarded as careless. Most of these exchanges involved me saying, ‘Really? Really?’ It was the Twilight Zone of conversations. Black cats, ladders, the proper way to walk through a graveyard. There were too many rules for me to possibly remember. And then one night, I crossed the risky behavior line. Since my mother-in-law was not around to help, Clarence had to step in.
We’d just moved into a rental house not far from my mom and dad’s place. Our bedroom had an unusually big window and curtains that barely met in the middle. One night, I was fast asleep when Clarence woke me. He was shaking my shoulder and hissing my name. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Look away from the window!’ I should have just rolled over. Instead, I asked why. ‘The full moon is shining on your face,’ he said.
‘It’s not bothering me,’ I replied, appreciating his thoughtful concern about the light keeping me awake.
‘No! You can’t let the full moon shine on your face!’ said my husband with five years of university and a double major in economics and history. I went back to sleep, because I was young and didn’t have kids and slept well and easily. But the next day, I asked him what the problem was. He wasn’t sure.
But it was something he’d learned, probably from his grandmother, and his knee jerk reaction was to follow it. ‘Will I turn into a werewolf?’ I asked, almost charmed by the idea. Again, he didn’t know. But something bad would happen. I couldn’t get over the craziness of it and bugged him about it daily. For some reason, we never asked his mother. (She might have been getting a teeny bit defensive about some of this stuff.) I’m still not allowed to break this rule, but if you’re up for the challenge, throw open your window coverings during the next full moon and bathe yourself in its light. Then get back to me about it. But if you find yourself covered in hair and howling your way through the bush, a telephone call will suffice. Here’s a song about superstition by a woman my husband had a mad crush on in junior high.