Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

Wise Grandma

Wise Grandma is a monthly column that runs in the Roseburg, Oregon News Review newspaper in the Encore magazine. The column views life with humor, anecdotes and common sense — because that is what a wise grandma would do.

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Within the course of a single day, I managed to avoid walking under a ladder, stepped out of the path of a black cat and grabbed an umbrella out of the hand of a co-worker, who was about to open it in my office. After she composed herself she politely informed me that I was very superstitious.

It is an absolute no-no to wish a performer “good luck” before the show. It is like begging the fates to strike you down. The term “break a leg” often confounds the young people I direct in theatrical productions. The words “break a leg” in theatre have the same effect as garlic to a vampire. The notion that you can ward off the evil spirits that may haunt you as you walk out onto the stage brings serenity and calm to the jangling nerves of the performer, or the agonized director.

Similar superstitious notions ward off the evil spirits that lie in wait in the verdant grass of the baseball field. Players wear the same sweaty cap, won’t shave and swear by certain routines, to preserve a winning streak. I have been known to wear a certain t-shirt while munching my peanuts and crackerjacks. So far it has never failed to produce a win.

Although the movie Moneyball was not lucky enough to win an Academy Award, it focused on the true story of baseball general manager, Billy Beane, whose superstitious nature did not allow him to watch his team play. He would leave the stadium and go for a drive while his team played on the field. He was convinced that if he watched or listened to the game, his team would lose.

Superstition is defined as a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary. The way I see it, superstitious notions are based on the evidence of personal experience. Unfortunately different cultures have different superstitions, making the practice rather unique and personal. From my Scottish roots comes the belief that should a strange black cat darken your door, it signifies prosperity.

The Japanese also believe that black cats bring good fortune. Pirates in the 19th century, held the superstition that a ship’s cat brought good luck and being pirates, black cats were favored. But should the cat come aboard and then mutiny, then surely the ship was doomed. Like the feline, the black cat superstitions can be fickle.

So why do these often ancient superstitions remain powerful enough to alter the course of human behavior in our high tech society? We have convinced ourselves that these moments deserve attention to preserve our fleeting aspirations that as a result, something better will happen. Is that such a bad notion? Perhaps because we are more focused on making conditions ideal, good luck finds a clear path to our door.

Since I have only found myself lucky in love, I remain grateful for that bit of luck. I will say we have never had a black cat, walked under a ladder or opened an umbrella inside our house. But I am sure that has nothing to do with it. On the other hand, my superstitious nature means that I am certainly not wiling to test the theory, either. That’s what a wise grandma would do.

Image: Flickrimages by Tompagenet

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