Sunday, August 07, 2005


i think i inherited a certain amount of superstition from my maternal grandmother and great-grandmother which no amount of education, scientific theory, or logic has been able to completely dispel. My Greek GM and GGM knew all about charms of protection and taught me how to spit on people to ward off the evil eye. My GGM was a spiritual healer who brought relief to many who sought her magic and insights. But i've always told myself i knew better than that. However, scratch the surface a little, and you find how quickly i revert.

My dear husband recently bought a kayak and has been taking daily trips out onto the river near our house. Since he's not an experienced kayaker - nor terribly fit or athletic at this point in his sedentary life - i've been a little apprehensive. i admit that part of my apprehension is irrationally based on a sad memory - when i was 17, a neighbor of mine, a healthy, 35-year-old man, drowned while on a fishing trip. He had been fly fishing, apparently slipped, and his hip-waders filled up with water. He was unable to stand up and save himself, though the water was little more than chest deep. So even though my DH is not exactly going out in the open ocean, it still worries me. Beyond saying, "Please be careful" each time he goes out, i've tried to quell my fears - they are *my* problem, after all, and he deserves to enjoy his new hobby. Today, though, i flipped.

It all started this morning - we went to church as usual, and my DH was drafted to replace one of the lay readers who was ill. The appointed reading was from Jonah, the lovely little teaching story in which a reluctant prophet is cast into deep waters and swallowed up by a big fish. i was sitting there listening, and these words struck home:
"The water about me rose to my neck,
for the deep was closing over me;
seaweed twined about my head
at the roots of the mountains;
I was sinking into a world
whose bars would hold me fast for ever."
Aack! This was my exact fear, so clearly stated - and read in his own voice! i tried to shake off the feeling of dread, but i had butterflies in my stomach all afternoon as i waited to see whether he would take the kayak out.

Of course he did. Two hours went by. i distracted myself with cooking, reading the newspaper, playing with the dogs. The phone rang - caller-ID showed it was his cell phone number. i picked up, but no answer on the other end - just that ghostly "empty space" sound of an open line. i returned the call, got his voice mail. Left a message - "Call me back right away, please, let me know you're okay." When there was no call in the next 10 minutes...okay, i already admitted - i flipped. Jonah's lament running through my head, i grabbed the car keys, told my son i would be right back, and roared down the street toward the boat dock. Made it as far as the corner, where i met DH returning home with the wet kayak on top of his car.

It's not my fault, was it, this temporary insanity? i was set up - conditioned almost from birth to expect the worst, because life is fragile and the universe a dangerous place. He had tried to call to let me know he was safely back on dry land, but cellular reception is dodgy down by the river and the signal was dropped. i'm proud to say i did not cry, rage, or in any other visible way betray my madness. But here, i figure it's safe to confess. Someone spit on me, quick!


Blogger ParisLondres said...

All good luck to you and ward off all evil! I am glad I am not the only one. No amount of university degrees can get rid of something that is ingrained too deep. I was taught by my nanny besides my GMs (another source of feeding joyful superstitions) to only clip nails during the day and after clipping them to spit on them, Strange huh? I do this every time. To any logical human being I will look like - you know what!
Glad A is safe and a warm hug to you.


1:18 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

god, you just don't know how happy i am to have someone understand...i really thought this post would be hanging out here all on its lonesome.

thanks, sweetie!

4:12 PM  
Anonymous hontapocasgreen said...

All these years I thought it was only my mom who did those spitty things to ward off the evil eye. She learned that from her Catholic-to-the-core grandma! My mom really went crazy with it when a complete stranger would compliment my kids when they were babies. She would mumble something in Tagalog along with the "pthu-pthu" spitty thing. There was also the not eating while money was on the table thing. To this day, my brother & I make anyone remove whatever money is on the table. One day, she'll explain that one to me!

8:20 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

hey, S - my mom & grandma both did the spitting when someone complimented my kids. it goes along with the superstition that saying something nice about someone, calling attention to their good qualities, is simply *asking for* the universe to rain down crap on them. sheesh.

9:08 PM  
Blogger mireille said...

No spitting ... just thank you for a piece that hits home. Every time dh goes to work out, I do my version of the-blessing-to-make-sure-he-comes-back-to-me.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Bela said...

I have become incredibly superstitious. I sometimes think I must be a witch: I seem to jinx so many things.

There are things I never talk about... just in case, and I believe the gods are listening, you know, the spiteful Greek ones, so there are sentences I don't finish. It sometimes makes conversation difficult. LOL!

9:22 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

J - it's the spiteful Greek ones we have to worry about, apparently. i saw my mom the day after i wrote this post; as i was leaving her house, i commented on how big the river birch by the front door is getting - she looked up at the sky and muttered, 'Quick, spit on it'! Honestly, i half expected lightning.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Bela said...

LOL! I look up at the sky a lot too.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

Everything will be fine. *knock on wood*

No harm is done by little superstitions. They can be very comforting. I once did a speech on this subject in the "required" speech class at my college.

5:15 PM  

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