“If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”― Groucho Marx
Last Saturday’s brief episode of rainfall and sunshine at the same time prompted a friend whose company I was enjoying to say, “The devil is chasing his wife.”
“That’s what my grandmother used to say,” I countered with a laugh. “And sometimes that it means it’s going to rain at the same time tomorrow.”
My father’s mother had plenty of sage sayings about the weather and most every other aspect of daily life. “If it thunders in February, it’s going to thunder on the same date in May,” was one. “Thunder on Tuesday in early summer foretells a good harvest,” was another. Then there was that one about Thunder on Easter Sunday, but I’ve forgotten what she said about that one.
I thought most of Granny’s offerings were witty, but they were serious business to her.
Hattie Lois Farmer was born in 1905 and reared near the West Texas community of Aledo. She met and married Sylvester Aldridge in 1920 when she was 15. He was 31. Such age differences in marriages were common then but evidently worked. Theirs lasted until his death in 1967.
Some hold the belief that superstition is contrary to faith in God, but I cannot make a case for that with my grandmother’s sayings. Granny missed very few services at the First Methodist Church in Pittsburg, Texas, in 60-something years of membership. She professed and practiced as much faith in God as anyone I’ve known.
Perhaps there’s a fine line between superstition and folklore. Perhaps it’s also the attitude one holds in the heart. I teased my grandmother a lot about hers.
“Don’t walk under that ladder. You’ll have bad luck,” she would say. “Only if someone on the ladder drops something on my head,” I would reply with a smile.
“It’s bad luck to wash clothes on Monday,” was another standard saying. “Any day I have to deal with laundry is bad luck for me,” I would let her know.
“A black cat crossing your path is bad luck,” was perhaps her most adamant admonition. As a result, I’ve seen her take a detour to avoid those chance occurrences.
“So, if you cross the cat’s path instead of it crossing yours,” I asked on one occasion, “Would that not undo the bad luck?” She didn’t have an answer, just a smile and a reminder that she wasn’t going to test my theory to find out.
My dad was also one to dispense a little superstition now and then. I guess he came by it honestly. “Palm of my right hand itches,” he would declare. “Money is coming my way.”
Another favorite wish for wealth to him was “stamping” the sighting of a white horse. That tricky little maneuver required licking a finger, tapping that finger to a palm, then “stamping” the palm with a fist as if to seal the deal.
“Does it work?” I asked him once. “Have you ever received unexpected money after trying those tricks?”
“Not that I remember,” he replied thoughtfully, “But it doesn’t hurt to wish.”
Quicker than a wish, the brief weather phenomenon last weekend ended. But fun comparisons of old sayings remembered with my friend continued.
“Drop a fork—a woman is coming to visit,” was one we both recalled hearing in our youth. “Drop a knife, a man’s coming to visit. Drop a spoon,” I shared having heard Granny say, “Meant a child was coming to visit.”
“So, what does it mean if I drop all the silverware at once?” I tried her with one time, apparently catching her off guard. She paused briefly and said, “I don’t know.”
“It means really bad luck,” I teased her, “Because it means I have to wash all the forks, spoons, and knives again.”
If Granny had been with us Saturday, I’m sure she would have offered whimsical expectations for crossing paths with the weather, felines, kitchenware, or most anything else.
I know she could have reminded me about what it means when it thunders on Easter Sunday.
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