One of the really great things about being ‘retired’ is that you no longer have to think about what you want to ‘be’ when you ‘grow up’ (not that I have any intention of ‘growing up’, mind you – I’m just saying …). I have had four distinct ‘career paths’ in my lifetime (not counting babysitting and the two part-time convenience store jobs I had in high school).
In each case, I sort of ‘fell into’ the various professions (aside from the first one, that is – it was ‘chosen’ for me when my dream of a career in Journalism fell through). I never planned for (or actually ‘chose’) the careers I’ve had – it was just a case of ‘right place, right time’ (combined with considerable hard work and a ‘never-say-never’ attitude when opportunities presented themselves) that saw me go from being a secretary / admin assistant to a curriculum designer to a (part time and later full-time) college professor / corporate trainer to a web design goddess (a title bestowed on me by one of my students that I just love) and back again to college professor (over a 40 year period).
And while each and every job I undertook was rewarding in its own way, and I was damn good at all of them, there were periods in my life when I would daydream about all the other jobs I might have pursued. Some of them were, of course, not even remotely plausible; some were probable but not possible (generally due to lack of education, talent or locale); a few might have been do-able if I’d had the nerve to leave the comfort of know-how, experience and an assured paycheque to pursue them. Still, looking back, I have no real regrets that I never became a(n):
- Cowgirl. This was the first ‘job’ I remember wanting to pursue. In the late 1960s I was a big fan of TV westerns, particularly ‘The Big Valley’. I wanted to ‘be’ Audra Barkley (played by Linda Evans) and ‘grow up’ to be as strong and resourceful as Victoria Barkley (played by Barbara Stanwyk). Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to ride a horse and ‘cowgirl’ wasn’t exactly a career path as defined by the public school system, so I let the idea go. (NOTE: I still have ‘learn to ride’ on my list of ‘Things to do before I die’.)
- Librarian. This was a strong contender in my early high school days. I loved books (and still do) and I’m a sorter-organizer by nature. During Grade 9 and 10, I belonged to the Library Club and I’ve always loved spending time in the Library (still do). Somehow, though, the idea of working in one gradually faded away. (Coincidentally, however, I taught several tech-related courses to students in the Library Techniques program at our local Community College during the 1990s).
- Drummer in a Rock and Roll Band. I’m a closet ‘air drummer’. There are sequences in certain songs that just make me want to pick up a pair of drumsticks and go to town! However, there was no money for drums or lessons when I was growing up and eventually I gave up on the notion. (I do, however, keep threatening to buy myself a set of drums; my husband [bless his heart] has promised to thoroughly insulate [i.e., soundproof] a room for me. Who knows? Maybe I’ll put together a kick-a** rock and roll band of women over 60 someday!)
- Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band). I am NOT a good singer. Never was. Can’t carry a tune at all. When I was in my early teens, I joined the Youth Choir at our church because they’d let just about anyone sing in the choir. I was also quite fond of belting out tunes (alone, in my basement bedroom) along with Diana Ross and the Supremes, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, (Sonny and) Cher, Tina Turner, and Jefferson Airplane (I desperately wanted to be Grace Slick!) Eventually, I accepted my lack of talent and stuck to singing in the car (which I still do) and to my boys at bedtime when they were little (I still maintain they fell asleep just to get me to stop!)
- Go Go Dancer. I had the boots! I had the mini skirts! I had the fish net stockings! I had the moves! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I never had the opportunity. I did bust a few moves at local dances at The Pineroom, the Masonic Hall, and the YMCA during the 1960s and early 1970s, but I never got to dance professionally (and now I dance as ‘exercise’ – how sad is that?!?!?!?)
- Fashion Designer. My mother taught me to sew when I was about twelve years old; from that point on, I made most of my own clothes. I admit to using store-bought patterns, but I would add the odd flourish of lace or flare of a cuff here or there to customize the outfits. When I finally got to take ‘Home Ec’ in Grade 11, the teacher told me there was nothing she could teach me that I didn’t already know (she did ask me to ‘model’ the clothes I’d made on several occasions, to show the other students what was possible). I briefly considered fashion design as a career (our local community college was one of the few places in Canada that offered a diploma program) but the cost of tuition plus supplies was out of reach, so I shifted my focus once more (to Journalism, a career that didn’t pan out because I couldn’t afford the tuition and my parents and high school guidance counsellor thought it was a bad idea, anyway).
- Stewardess. This was considered a ‘first-class’ (pun intended) career in the 1960s and 1970s and one that quite a few girls my age at the time (16 – 18) considered pursuing. You didn’t need a college education – all you needed was to be ‘bright, resourceful, alert, cool, collected, sociable, reliable, bubbly, confident, and pretty’. Unfortunately, (according to the airlines of the time) ‘pretty’ meant you didn’t wear glasses (which I had done since I was ten). Since contact lenses weren’t a viable option back then (cost and discomfort being the key issues), I had to let this one go, too (although I still think I would have looked really great in the uniform).
- Bookkeeper: I’ve always been good with numbers and my fingers really fly when I’m sitting at an adding machine. During my year at secretarial school I was ‘placed’ (during a short, unpaid ‘internship’) with a small local accounting firm to perform basic bookkeeping tasks. I found the work moderately challenging, got an exceptionally positive review from my employer, and received a post-graduation job offer. But while I liked the environment and the people I worked with, I just couldn’t see myself ‘crunching numbers’ for a living. (I eventually accepted a job as a junior legal secretary with a small downtown law firm, thus launching career #1, which led to all the others).
- Cruise Ship Director. This was sort of an offshoot of ‘Stewardess’ above, prompted by the fictional life and work environment of ‘Julie’, the Cruise Director on (the TV series) ‘The Love Boat’. At the time (late 1970s), I was working as an administrative assistant in the Instructional Development department of our local community college, earning a generous salary and enjoying considerable autonomy. I also had a house, a husband, a cat, and a close knit group of friends I didn’t fancy leaving behind for ‘life on the high seas’, so I didn’t pursue it. (I also had no experience with cruise ships, and didn’t know that I’m actually somewhat prone to sea sickness, which might have been something of a hindrance to a career on a cruise ship.)
- Interior Designer/Decorator. One of the many instructional texts I helped design and develop during my second career (instructional designer) was a book on ‘Interior Design’. I worked closely with the college’s lead professor (a professional Interior Designer and a woman as detail-oriented and finicky as they come). I found the subject matter quite intriguing, but the idea of working with people like the text’s author discouraged me from pursuing it as a career (nothing was ever ‘quite right’ with the work we produced [no matter how many times we revised it to HER specifications]; at one point the graphic designer and I toyed with the idea of taking a hit out on her).
- Zookeeper. I love animals. Domestic, exotic, wild, tame, cute, fearsome – doesn’t matter. When I saw the help wanted ad for ‘animal care associates’ for the new Toronto Zoo (which opened in 1974), I actually prepared a resume and seriously considered submitting it. I didn’t care if I had to shovel elephant poop or spread nesting material for the monkeys, I just wanted to work at the zoo! The problem was primarily location – the zoo was being built east of Toronto and I lived 30 miles west of the city. Travel time would have been over an hour each way (or more, as time went by and traffic levels increased). Moving to a suburb closer to the zoo was an option, but I loved my house and I’d planned on staying in my ‘hometown’ for the rest of my life, so I backed down.
- Museum Tour Guide. This was a very brief flirtation. A colleague at the College where I was working saw an ad for a tour guide at Casa Loma in Toronto and told me about it. While I loved the idea of the job, I loathed the location (downtown Toronto is a nightmare to reach during rush hour; living in ‘the city’ wasn’t a viable option, financially or emotionally), so I took a pass.
There is, of course, one ‘career’ I haven’t included on this list: novelist (something I’ve wanted to ‘be’ since I was 16 or 17). That’s because I’m still actively pursuing it even though I’m on … the other side of 55.
On February 2nd each year, groundhogs across North America (the two most famous being Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ontario, Canada, and Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, USA) emerge from their dens to see if they can see their shadows and thus predict (probably as accurately as most human meteorologists can) how much longer winter will last.
According to the legend (which was adapted from ancient European weather lore about animals and their shadows predicting the arrival of spring by Pennsylvania Germans in the late 18th century), if the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, spring will arrive early (although he never provides us with an exact date); if he does see his shadow, winter will last another six weeks (a prognostication that, conveniently, brings us very close to March 20, the ‘official’ first day of spring). Earlier today, both Wiarton Willie and Punxsutawney Phil saw their shadows (while several other groundhogs across Canada and the U.S. did not). Considering the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing this winter, I’m not surprised at the news (is winter EVER going to end?!?!?!?)
When my oldest son was very young, he used to actively watch for groundhogs in the grass next to the railway tracks across from the mall. Whenever we’d drive that way, there was almost always at least one fat, furry rodent foraging along the berm near the fence. Whether it was the same groundhog each time, or just one of many that apparently lived there, I have no idea, but we gave ‘him’ a name (Smiley Buck) and began making up stories about him. For instance, if we didn’t see him – and it was particularly cold – we’d devise scenarios where he’d taken a mid-winter vacation to the south, or perhaps gone skiing in the north. We imagined what his den might look like, and who his friends were, and whether or not he had parties or celebrated Christmas with his family. There was no end to the stories we created about our beloved Smiley Buck.
One fine spring day, we spotted two groundhogs foraging together and realized (happily) that Smiley Buck had a girlfriend (we named her Lashes). For several years, groundhog spotting was a favourite activity of trips to that part of town (unfortunately, in the late 80s, the city initiated a ‘groundhog removal’ program in that area – apparently there were so many tunnels along that stretch that they were threatening to undermine the nearby rail lines; sadly, I haven’t seen a groundhog along there in many, many years, although I do spot the occasional one in other grassy areas around town).
In Grade 5, my son had to create a computer-generated ‘storybook’ (using a program called Storybook Creator) for one of his classes; he chose to write a story about Smiley Buck and Lashes. Using the tools provided by the program, he designed their ‘den’ as a cozy space furnished with tables and chairs and a nice fireplace; there was a ladder leading up to an ‘exit’ hole at the top. If I recall correctly (and we’re talking almost 25 years ago, so my memory is a bit fuzzy) there were ten or twelve different ‘scenes’ in the story (I do recall one showed their skis neatly stacked against a wall, another featured a ‘backyard’ swimming pool next to a chaise and sun umbrella, and one was of a birthday party for Lashes, complete with cake and candles – I think she was three). Unfortunately, I remember nothing about the actual text of the story – but knowing my son, it would have been both carefully plotted and (darkly) humorous. I do know he got an A+ on it (for visual creativity and storytelling). I wish I’d printed it (it was stored on one of our earliest computers, and disappeared with it). NOTE: groundhog clipart above from webclipart.about.com
Every year on Groundhog Day (and, I must admit, occasionally when I drive along the road near the mall) I think about Smiley Buck and Lashes, and wonder what happened to them (groundhogs only live five to six years in the wild, but I like to think they had lots of offspring, who had lots of offspring, and that their family lives on somewhere in town), and I recall all the wonderful stories my son and I created and shared during those very special years – and I wish I could relive it all again. Time has rushed past far too quickly on the way to … the other side of 55.
My husband tiptoed into our bedroom at 5:30 this morning and gently wakened me. “I need a favour,” he said. “Can you send an announcement to my students saying class is cancelled? There’s a foot of snow outside, the wind’s blowing at eighty kilometers an hour, and visibility is near zero on the roads. There’s no way I can get to work.”
NOTE: my husband teaches advanced computer programming at a local community college; on Mondays he has a class at 8:00 a.m. at a campus approximately 40 km [25 miles] away (since he likes to get there early, he usually leaves about 5:45 a.m.) And while he is absolutely brilliant at understanding and communicating the most complex concepts related to computers, he has an aversion to mastering new software – particularly the learning management system recently adopted by the college for the purpose of ‘sharing course-related information with students’. Since I’ve always been adept at figuring out the ‘user end’ of applications, I learned it pretty quickly and have taken on the task of posting class notices, announcing quiz and test dates, and uploading class plans and other ‘handouts’ for him (considering how much he does for me, I figure it’s the least I can do. It is also much easier on my nerves than listening to him grumble and complain about it, or having to explain to him – for the umpteenth time – how to do something; it’s easier to simply do it myself [and doesn't he know it!])
Anyway, back to my story. It was a dark and stormy morning. I slipped on my housecoat and headed out to the computer. While I posted the requisite announcement and sent the confirmation emails to students and administrative staff, my husband made me a cup of tea and took it back down to the bedroom. When I was done, we sat in bed together (he with his second cup of coffee and me with my tea) and chatted about the weather and the cold, snowy, generally-all-around-crappy winter we’ve been having. And it felt very much like ‘old times’. You see, when I was also teaching, getting up at 5:30 was pretty normal. Usually one or the other (or sometimes both) of us would have an 8:00 a.m. class pretty much every day of the week. We’d rise well before dawn, have our tea/coffee in bed, get dressed, and head out to face the day (for two years we worked at the same college, so we’d often drive in together; when I switched Colleges, he’d head east and I’d go west). Going to work in the dark (and often returning in the dark) was just part of the routine.
Now, however, I am officially ‘retired’, and I don’t have to get up in the dark anymore. For the first two years (I haven’t worked since the summer of 2010), I have to admit that I found it hard to ‘sleep in’. My husband was very stealthy when he’d get up at some unholy hour (what I now consider ‘the middle of the night’), but I was still aware of his movements, and almost always heard the ‘click’ of the front door closing as he headed off to work. Generally, I’d force myself to stay in bed for another hour or so – sometimes just lying there staring into the darkness, sometimes watching the news on TV, occasionally getting up to make a cup of tea and then returning to bed with the newspaper. Gradually, however, I learned to stop listening to my husband’s movements and let myself sleep for as long as I want. I generally still know when he’s left the bed, the bedroom, and the house, but it no longer ‘registers’ as something I need to focus on. And so, finally, after fifty-odd years of getting up early five (or more) days of the week for school or work or the demands of little children, I’ve managed to convince myself that it’s okay to stay in bed, let my system determine when I’ve had ‘enough’ sleep, and ‘rest my weary bones’ until sometime after the sun comes up.
I do admit to experiencing the teeniest, tiniest bit of guilt when I hear my husband rustling around and leaving the house in the dark on a cold, snowy, blowy morning. But I don’t want to get up and go with him. I’d rather snuggle back down under the covers and remind myself that his time is coming (he’ll be retiring in just over three years) and that I’ve earned this little slice of luxury now that I’m on … the other side of 55.
At this time of year, it’s almost impossible not to become overwhelmed by the hoopla surrounding Christmas and all that it entails (Buy! Buy! Buy! Spend! Spend! Spend! More! More! More!) I try very hard to keep it all in perspective – buying only for those in my immediate family, keeping (for the most part) to the lists they provide, and sticking to a (fairly) strict budget. Balance is important – the boys get the same number and ‘dollar value’ of presents each year, including the usual socks, pajamas, requested items of clothing, and one ‘big’ gift, plus miscellaneous smaller objects tucked into their stockings (candy, puzzles, games, a toothbrush, and at least one small Lego set each – they still ‘compete’ to see who can build theirs the quickest, even though they’re 32 and 27!) I do the same for their (long time) girlfriends; the gifts are arranged ‘equitably’ by the tree (gifts for son #1 and his girlfriend on the left; presents for son #2 and his girlfriend on the right).
The boys’ stockings were handmade by a friend of mine many years ago (she originally made them for me and my then-husband, but since we already had stockings, I fortuitously tucked them away); I embroidered the boys’ names on them myself. When they moved out, they chose to leave their stockings behind so that I could continue to fill them every year (I assume they have alternate stockings at their current domiciles). They’re a fair size and hold a reasonable number of items; somehow I’ve always managed to buy ‘just enough’ to fill them each year. My husband had never had a stocking (it wasn’t something his family did when he was young) so I bought him one the first Christmas we were together and painted his name on it. It is also a reasonable size (it can hold a can of beer, a couple of DVDs, two pairs of [heavy] socks, a pack of underwear, a magazine or two, and some small tools).
My stocking, on the other hand, is very small. I’ve had it as long as I can remember. It is made of red felt, and has an image of Santa and some toys, along with the words ‘Merry Christmas’, painted in white on the front. It also has my name embroidered on it. My sister has the same stocking, with her name on it. I’m not quite sure what year we got them (probably 1957 or 1958), but I do know they were a ‘give away’ item one year when we went to visit Santa Claus at Eaton’s in Toronto (back then, towns like ours didn’t have department stores or malls; if you wanted to see Santa in person, you had to go to Eaton’s Toyland in ‘The City’). While we were telling Santa what we wanted, my mother gave our names to a lady who was sitting at a nearby sewing machine; she stitched our names on the stockings. We’ve both used them ever since.
When we were little, we generally found the same items tucked into our stockings each year – an orange at the bottom, two or three pairs of underpants, a Jersey Milk chocolate bar, some bath salts or powder, and a candy cane. Other gifts – a new pair of flannel pajamas, some tights (we called them ‘leotards’) or socks, maybe a hat or earmuffs or mittens, a board game or puzzle or paper doll set, and one ‘special’ gift from Santa (for me that was usually a doll) – were either wrapped and put under the tree, or (in the case of our gift from Santa) left (unwrapped) in our own ‘special place’ in the living room (my sister’s gifts were always on the right end of the couch; mine were at the left; my brother’s were put on Mom’s rocking chair). We didn’t expect much and we were grateful for what we got. Christmas was certainly much simpler back then!
The other day when I was doing some shopping, I saw a 60” stocking for sale (for $24.95). I’m not sure exactly what you’d put in a stocking that size, but it seemed like a serious case of overkill to me. Have people really gotten so greedy that they would expect someone to fill five feet of stocking with ‘stuff’ on Christmas morning? How sad!
I prefer my tiny little stocking (even if the only thing my husband can find that ‘fits’ into it is a box of After Eight mints). It reminds me of those simpler Christmas mornings – a long, long time ago, before I was on … the other side of 55.
I’ve heard this phrase many times, but I’ve never really paid all that much attention to it (or to variations on the same theme, e.g., ‘Forty is the new 30’, ‘Thirty is the new 20’, etc.) until I heard my doctor say it.
When I went in for my annual physical earlier this year, the doctor took note of my birth year (1953) and immediately said, “Well, not to worry – sixty is the new forty”. I sat, a little dumbfounded, for a few moments before I asked, “What exactly does that mean?” He explained (I’m paraphrasing here) that (generally) people today don’t look or feel as old as someone of the same age did a generation or two ago. We tend to take better care of ourselves than our parents and grandparents did – we exercise more, eat healthier, engage in more social activities, have more fulfilling careers, better understand the importance of keeping our minds and bodies active and engaged. We also have access to better medical care, and there have been incredible advances in science and technology that have given rise to products and services that can help us look and feel younger than we are.
I knew he wasn’t just talking about all those ‘anti-aging products’ you see advertised on TV and in women’s magazines (which do not, by the way, actually prevent or slow down the aging process; they merely ‘reduce the appearance of’ [i.e., disguise] its effects) – he was talking about our whole approach to living, and how it’s impacting generational life spans (which has massive repercussions with respect to global population growth … but that’s another topic for another post).
I read an article not long ago that said a Canadian woman in the 1920s had a life expectancy of 61 years, whereas today we can anticipate making it to 83. To put that into perspective, a 40 year old woman today would be the same relative age as a woman of 30 in the 1920s (which means the statement, ‘Forty is the new 30’ is pretty darn accurate and ‘Sixty is the new 40’ isn’t far off [the math suggests it’s closer to 43.5, but who’s going to quibble over a few years at our age, right?])
According to a new book (“The Long and the Short of it: The Science of Life Span and Aging” by Jonathan Silverman) the human life span has increased 15 minutes every hour for the past 170 odd years (for a total gain of almost 40 years since 1840 – about 7 ½ generations). According to Silverman’s research, the average woman born in Sweden in 1840 (where he conducted his studies) lived to be 45; a girl born there today can expect to live to 84. The math behind those stats suggests that each generation will live about five years longer than the previous one (I once read that each generation could expect to live three years longer than the one before it, but Silverman has certainly done his homework, so let’s assume – for the moment – that he’s right). If you know the (approximate) ages that your parents and/or grandparents and/or great-grandparents died, you might discover (as I did) that you have the (statistical) potential to live to a very ripe old age (my mother was two weeks shy of her 94th birthday when she died in 2012; her mother was 94 when she died in 1980; my father’s mother was 90.5 when she died in 1967; therefore, it is conceivable that I could hit the big 1-0-0 if I take care of myself).
Of course, none of this really matters if you’ve stopped counting the years altogether, or if you refuse to take care of yourself, or if don’t give a fig about how many more years you might have left on this plane of existence. Or you might be one of those people who only thinks about how you feel on the inside (vs. how you look on the outside). One of the best ‘quotes’ I ever read about the getting past the ‘angst’ of aging was this: “How old would you say you were if you didn’t know how old you were?” (My answer? 35.)
When I look back at my life, I sometimes have a hard time believing I’m 60 already, and I wonder (often) “Where did the time go?” But time, like everything else (including aging) is relative, so even if ‘sixty is the new forty’, I’m just going to keep telling people that I’m on … the other side of 55.
Since I most take after my mother and her mother, I thought I’d put together a little generational glimpse into all three generations of women at 20 year intervals (20, 40, 60, 80) to see how we’ve adapted to ‘relative aging’.
In Our Twenties
Somewhere Close to 60
Around Halloween-time, I often get to thinking about all the rites and rituals and superstitions that people follow, and I sometimes wonder where they come from. So over the weekend I did a little digging and I thought I’d share the results with you.
Did you know that gullible is a synonym for superstitious (so are credulous, irrational and illogical)? Somehow I never equated being superstitious with being naive (a synonym for gullible), uncritical (a synonym for credulous), or unreasonable (a synonym for irrational). I don’t dispute the fact that some superstitions might be seen as illogical, foolish, crazy, ridiculous, absurd, or silly, but few are unfounded (they all have some sort of historical origin). Here, then, are some ‘superstitions’ (including their source) that I follow (for no other reason, really, than they are learned behaviours).
- Knocking on wood. When I want to prevent something bad from happening (usually after I’ve mentioned something positive), I knock on something wooden (and say ‘knock on wood’; e.g., “I haven’t gotten the flu yet this winter” Tap, tap, tap … “Knock on wood”). This superstition apparently comes from the druids of Great Britain who believed that spirits lived in trees. Whenever they spoke of the potential for good or bad fortune occurring, they would knock on a tree to ‘perk up’ the spirits so they’d work in their favour. Maybe next time, I’ll knock directly on a tree instead of my pressed plywood desk!
- Saying ‘God bless you’ when someone sneezes. This one goes back to Pope Gregory the Great (540 – 604 AD) who apparently said it to people who sneezed during the bubonic plague outbreak of the late sixth century (the first symptom of the plague was severe, chronic sneezing, usually followed by a quick death). And since it was believed that when someone sneezed, the soul escaped from the body and the heart momentarily stopped, saying “God bless you” was a way of welcoming the person back to life. To me, it’s just a natural, polite thing to say when someone near me sneezes.
- Unlucky 13/Friday the 13th. Personally, I’ve turned this one on its head. Ever since I got a perfect grade on a math test on a Friday the 13th back in Grade 5, I’ve always seen it as a lucky day. Still, there are some who believe that the number 13 is unlucky (despite there being absolutely no statistical evidence to prove it), and the 13th falling on a Friday as more so. This is apparently because there were 13 people at the Last Supper of Christ, and Judas Iscariot (Christ’s betrayer) was the 13th member of his close circle; Friday was the day Christ was crucified. In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is considered a bad luck day, and the number 4 is considered unlucky in Japan, Korea and China (because it sounds like ‘death’ when pronounced). In most English-speaking countries, there is no 13th floor in apartment buildings or hotels; in the far east, floors with the number ’4′ in them (4, 14, 24, 34 …) are missing.
- Never walk under a ladder. I think I’ve always just considered this to be a dangerous endeavour, rather than superstitiously harmful. Still, its origin is interesting – murderers were hanged from the tops of ladders before gallows were invented; it was thought that their spirits (ghosts) remained at the bottom of the ladder and could ‘possess’ anyone who walked there. Creepy! I just don’t trust whoever is up on the ladder not to drop something on my head.
- Indications that you’re coming into money. There are several superstitions that apparently can predicti when you are going to come into money (or lose it). My maternal grandmother always looked into a cup of tea before drinking it – if bubbles had formed on the top, she’d excitedly exclaim that she was going to come into money. Other people believe in the ‘itchy palm’ theory – an itch on the right palm means you’ll have a windfall; an itch on the left is money going out the window (if both palms itch at the same time, you’ve got a lot of good luck coming your way). I’ll have to pay more attention to my palms the next time I buy a lottery ticket (I always check my tea for bubbles!)
- Never open an umbrella indoors. Again, I always thought this was more a matter of safety than superstition (I can hear my mother’s admonishments that you’d poke someone’s eye out or break something if you opened your umbrella inside). However, the superstition that ‘bad luck will rain on you’ if you open an umbrella indoors comes from a time when umbrellas were used more for protection from the sun than from rain, and opening one indoors was considered an insult to the sun god. I keep my umbrella in the car, so I think I’m safe on this one.
- If a black cat crosses your path, you’ll experience bad luck. I’ve never really believed this. I love all cats. However, our local Humane Society reports that black cats are the least-adopted (of both cats and kittens) and they hold a ‘black cat sale’ (with reduced adoption fees) once a year. The fear of black cats goes back to the Middle Ages, when they were associated with witches. It was believed that witches would turn themselves into black cats in order to do the devil’s bidding. If a black cat crossed your path, it was because the devil had sent it to block your way to heaven. I’ve owned two black cats (and known many others, including my ‘grandcat’, Wilbur) and the only ‘devilish’ or ‘bad luck inducing’ thing I can say about them is that they’re impossible to see in a dark hallway at night, so if you’re not careful, you might just trip over them and cause yourself harm. Otherwise, they’re just as wonderful as any cat.
Perhaps these superstitions (and many others) are outdated or – according to my thesaurus: illogical, foolish, crazy, ridiculous, absurd, or silly) but I’ve practiced them for so long that I doubt I’d ever give them up. After all, they’ve worked for me right through to … the other side of 55.