by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Last week I walked our local track with two friends, and after a few laps we stopped to rest on a nearby bench. Before sitting down, one friend, Lorraine, spots a penny on the grass, then bent down to look closer to it. She says out loud, “I’ll pick it up if it is not tails down, as my grandmother said that is bad luck.” I had never heard of that expression and told her so. In fact, my grandmother had a rhyme about seeing a penny on the ground as we picked it up. She told me when I was a child to say, “Penny, penny bring me luck, because I’m the one that picked you up!” She added two more thoughts about not walking away from a penny on the ground. Grandma said that since “In God we Trust” are on our coins, we should never walk away and not pick it up. Since she lived during the depression, she believed people should not be so proud or think they are too good to pick up a penny!
After the penny discussion we began to think about other superstitions we grew up hearing. There were so many that came to mind and I wondered if others had heard about the same ones. Some of the better known ones were not to walk under a ladder or if a black cat crosses your path, it is bad luck. Do you remember hearing that you should not open an umbrella in the house or put a man’s hat on a bed because it is bad luck? Seven years bad luck comes your way if you break a mirror, was another. If my mother spilled salt from the shaker, she would take a pinch off the table and throw it over her shoulder, to wipe out the bad luck from the spill. Ever hear if your palm is itchy, “you will be coming into money?” Or how about if a fork is dropped company is coming, which was another old wives tale. I remember when I was little if we made funny faces or crossed our eyes in jest being told “You will stay that way if someone hits you on the back of the head.” That was really a scary thought to an eight year old! After a big Thanksgiving dinner, my mother would save the “wish bone” until it dried out so we could use it a week later to make a wish. When it was dried, we’d each take a side, holding the bottom of the bone and pulling gently. Whoever got the biggest piece, which included the top part, would have a wish come true. And one last thought to counter any “bad luck” back in those days was to carry around a “lucky rabbit’s foot”. Usually the foot had a brass top to it, attached to a small chain that you could keep keys on, too. It was an odd superstition and certainly not a lucky one for any rabbit.