Are You Superstitous?

Not superstitious?

Well, maybe so, maybe so, but…have you ever felt a qualm about raising an umbrella while inside the house? Wished upon-a-falling-star? And before we became wise enough not to smoke, did you know people who would never light a third cigarette on one match, but would toss the match aside, light another, while shaking their head and murmuring “Three-on-a-match, you know.”

So, where did they start? Course, no one can be sure, but researchers in ancient lore believe wishing-on-a-falling-star originated with the Star of Bethlehem, and while That Star didn’t fall, its light most certainly did, o’er all the earth, too.

The three-on-a-match fear came into being during the Crimean war when the men realized that if a match remained lit long enough for three ‘smokes’ to be lit, it also gave the enemy time to zero their guns on the target.

Knocking-on-wood dates back to the Druids whose gods lived in trees, and so when they wished for good fortune, they knocked on the trees to alert the Druids of their needs, just as we knock-on-wood to ward off disfavor today.

An interesting side-light of this tree superstition is our Christmas trees. In the darkest days of winter, when the sun was in evidence only short hours a day, the ancient Druids retired to the forest and prayed to the tree gods to let the sun linger longer.

And, ya know what? They were right, for immediately afterwards the sun slowly did light the sky for a longer time each day. This was also, it’s said, for the beginning of a tree being taken to the house in the deep of winter for ‘worship’.

Friday is considered the unlucky day of the week and when it coincides with thirteen, it’s murder. Adam and Eve ‘fell’ on a Friday, the Flood came on that day and so did the confusion at Babel. the death of Christ, and there were thirteen at the Last Supper.

And the result is so strong that people bow to it today, and many a high rise building has no 13th floor. Of course the numbering systen goes from the Twelfth floor to the Fourteenth, but the busy people who use those buildings today, don’t stop to count, they just know their apartment or business is not cursed with being on the 13th floor.

No less a personage that Winston Churchill, the man who saved the Free World during WW !!, refused to travel on Friday the thirteenth and insisted on bringing any handy person to make the diners at a table number 14. He also, if he couldn’t find anyone to join them, would ask some unlucky person to leave the table to reduce the number to 12.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, our President who worked side by side with Churchill for long hours, days and weeks, secretly told friends,  that getting around that number 13, with Churchill took a lot of maneuvering. Even to how many hours in flight or aboard ships.

Do you cover your mouth when you yawn? Say “God bless you” when someone sneezes? Well, way, way back our ancestors believed our souls were in our very breath and so, when we sneezed we stood in danger of spewing out our souls and suddenly finding ourselves dead.

And in close relationship. they feared yawning and while we cover our gaping mouths as a social nicety, they covered theirs to keep ‘evil’ spirits from being sucked in with the sudden intake of breath that accompanies the yawn.

Superstitions are far from being musty relics of the past. New ones are as contemporary as garden weeds. Which is quite apparent when you think how many ‘Lucky Charms’ are made, sold, worn and toted around by people every day of the year. And on TV shows where money can be won or lost, it’s common for the contestants to have a Lucky something or other, in their pocket or hand.

But you aren’t superstitious? Better give it a second thought cause chances are, in some way, we both are.

Oh Make Haste

As I get older  (Way older, you just try being 100 and then tell me what you think about it!), the moments become more precious.  Here’s one of my old columns that says it well . . .

Sometimes the days, hours or moments we ‘waste’ turn out to be the ones we remember for the rest of our lives.  We think of all the chores we could be doing and feel it’s ‘wrong’ to occasionally do nothing but look, relax and experience the joy of  life itself.

I remember just such a day.  Two small boys were going wild with the joy of the first really warm day of summer and were constantly calling me to, “Oh, Mommy, come and see”.  And smart enough to know that they wouldn’t always want me to ‘Come and See”,  I put aside my dust cloth, broom and cookpot and together the three of us roamed the fields and pasture. Fields now fenced off and the cow-pasture that became the Mick Riley Golf Course.

I can re-live that day right now.  They showed me certain ‘special’ rocks they found, we peered into  bird nests, watched bees drone in the sun, found tiny hidden flowers and ate our lunch on the warm slope of the hill.

Ah, the chores I left unfinished that day are long ago forgotten and  whatever I fixed for that night’s dinner matters not,  but how the three of us spent that day has become one of my most precious memories. A ‘wasted’ day?  Don’t tell that to any parent who has taken the time to walk, listen and watch while their children still want them ‘to come and see what I’m doing’.

I remember another ‘wasted’ summer day long before that, when my own mother scolded me because she had looked for me and worried when I couldn’t be found.  I was far too young and unknowing to even try to explain, but just the same, I can still see where and how I spent that time. And no matter how many office buildings have been built in  that spot, I still have my memory.

Yes, I can still see the Cherry tree at the head of two rows of Currant Bushes.  The grass grew high (Well, it was high for a four or five year old) between the bushes, and I played the hours away in their seclusion.  The Cherry tree had a pungent odor I would still  know, and my cheeks pucker even as I write these words and recall the sweet-tart taste of the ripe currants I stuffed into my mouth.

But how could a child tell her upset mother she was just taking her first real look at God’s world and finding it good?  The truth is, the child didn’t know what she was doing.  Just aware that the day had been satisfying beyond anything she had before known.

I also remember when, as a young bride, I ‘wasted’ a few minutes, made extra work for myself, but found unforgettable beauty.

I had hurried out to bring in the my laundry from the clothes line, as a rain storm was near.  With the frantically gathered linen in my arms I turned to hurry back into the house, when I noticed black billows of clouds tumbling and pouring down the ravines of Mt. Olympus, looking like big billows of black whipped cream being poured from some height, and I stopped in my tracks, dead still, and watched.

The wind whipped my hair and clothes and big rain drops came and wet me and the sheets and towels in my arms, but the violent beauty  of the eastern mountain became etched on my mind.  The work of once more drying the linen is forgotten, but the storm’s beauty is still mine.  ‘Wasted’ time?  You know better.

Oh, it’s easy to scold the young lad who has stopped in the middle of lawn cutting to stand and dream, with the warm sun on his back, and the cool lawn at his feet. But who knows?  He just might be seeing the world in a new way,  and that moment of seeming idleness, a moment he’ll treasure years from now when his whole world has changed, and he’d like nothing more than just to be that  boy again with nothing to do but mow the lawn.  And have dreams.

‘Wasted’ moments????  Ah, these aren’t the wasted ones.  I’ve forgotten forever the many tasks of  cleaning rooms and preparing thousands of meals, but the ‘wasted’ hours I spent amid Mama’s  bushes and the day with two little boys at play in the pasture that is now also gone forever,  will be with me to the end of my days.

Ready For Winter?

The Old Order Hath Changed.

                 Wow!  How the old order hath changed, for with the first nippy air heralding the coming of winter, I realize again that people “don’t get ready for winter” anymore.

Not too many years ago (Come on, now, who’s counting?) but this area was  very rural, and, “Hello, are you ready for winter?” was the common greeting.  And, as a kid at home, it seems that one of Mom and Dad’s first considerations of late summer was “to get in the coal”.  How else did one cook and keep warm?

At one time we had a coal shed and it was piled clear to the rafters when “the coal came”.  Later on, with house reconstructions,  Pop had it slid into the basement coal room, but either way, with the first blast of winter, everyone wanted to have stored all the coal they’d need for the long months ahead.

Mom always bought flour for the year, too.  I still don’t see the wisdom of this, but the big 50 lb. sacks of flour would arrive (of course everyone baked their own bread) and my parents would carefully store the flour in the cool attic on a special framework Dad had made for them.  Maybe flour and coal were cheaper in the summer.  I don’t know and who is there now left to tell us???  I can only give hints.

Putting up fruit kept our mother in a turmoil of work for at least six weeks in the late summer and early fall and it was this child’s delight to step to the basement and see the long shelves filled with the glorious colors of the fruit, pickles, sauces and tomatoes she ‘bottled’.  To me it meant good eating in the months to come and I was always glad when it snowed, for until then, Mom wouldn’t let us start using that good stuff.  It was food for winter, not summer or fall.

Pop built outside Root Cellars, too, and they were common to this area then.  Long trenches were dug, lined deeply with fresh clean straw and then vegetables, winter pears and apples were stored.  More straw covered the raw food and a deep layer of soil went over the top.  “Chimneys’ were built to ventilate the warm, buried food.

The idea was to keep everything cool enough to stay crisp but warm enough not to freeze and the idea was great.  The trouble was, however, that in the dead of winter,  getting through a foot of snow, to that frozen over-lay of  soil, then through the stiff, frozen straw and finally to the goal of it all, the vegetables snugly buried safely underneath.

It was a good trick also, to go for carrots, delve down through the three layers of snow, soil and straw, into the depths for where you were positive the carrots were, and instead find you had ‘hit’ parsnips, apples or cabbage.  Somehow nothing looked the same once snow arrived and the markers put up so carefully in the fall had a different look in the middle of January.

Besides that, it was always so darn cold that no one (well, it was always Dad’s job) wanted to take time to really survey the place.  Just dig, grab, cover again in the right order and then get back into the warm house.  And, something no one spoke of, but by the time winter was over, everything ‘down there’ tasted and smelled like the protective straw.  Oh well.

Just the same, to the child that I was, listening to the adults talk, I felt winter was a terrible threat that was held in abeyance only by Dad and Mom’s preparation of getting “ready for winter”.

Mom, with her chests full of clean quilts and blankets, basement shelves filled with fruit, and for heaven’s sake, I almost forgot, our winter long-arm and long-legged  underwear, dresses, jackets, coats, hats, pajamas, and mittens (not gloves), boots  and whatever else cold weather demanded.

That phrase, ‘Getting ready for winter’,  was a safety buffer to me and I felt nothing could harm me when I’d hear Dad say,   “Yes, we’re ready,”  in reply  to some neighbor’s query.  Upon hearing those three simple words, some spot within me relaxed for with them I knew all was right and safe with my world.

When you’ve been raised that way, that question was hard to put aside, for without all that work, preparation and storing away, who and what was to protect one from that Demon called Winter??

And, today, I watch two of my neighbors (their tie to past is their own business, not mine)  but it’s satisfying and gives me a good feeling to know that there are those who, in their own way,  still follow the customs I once knew so well.

And by the way, “Are you ready for Winter”?  Or do you even give it a thought?  Much less a ‘second thought’.

Alcoholism – Addiction, Escape, Waste

Here is something I wrote years ago, but is ever relevant . . .  And nowadays, we ought to talk about addiction in wider terms.  Prescription drug abuse is rampant and who knows how many lives are wasted because of it.  Bottom line, respect yourself and watch for the danger signs of dependency.

Ten Simple Clues

In all the years that I’ve written a newspaper column “Out My Window” and now this blog of “From Out My Window”, I’ve repeated very few columns.  One is  of ‘Lilacs’  used  on Memorial Day, and  now the one I use today,  because two people have told me that my ‘questions’, as seen below, were eye-openers for them, and that just maybe they might do the same for another.

And there’s one more person I meet occasionally, a delightful person, but who, I’d be willing to bet, will become, or already is, an alcoholic.  I wanted to talk to him, but didn’t, for there would have been anger, and I’d have been told, truthfully, that it was none of my business.  But at one stage of my life I was active in AA, and while not alcoholic myself, I learned an awfully lot.

One was this list of the following questions and I’ve used them in many ways over the years because they were true then and are just as true today.

If you answer ‘Yes’ to even one of the following questions,  the chances are you have a problem, and if you answer “Yes” to three or more, you are an alcoholic.  It may take years before you admit it, but the course of the disease is relentless, constantly  down-hill and continues to worsen until admitted and faced.

Don’t tell your answers to anyone, but for your own sake, answer truthfully to yourself, and oh how I wish, hope, that even one person will read, and let them  make a difference.

1. Do you ever take a drink in the morning?
2. When people mention drinking do you walk away in anger, thinking they were speaking about you, and wish they would mind their own business?
3. Have you ever (secretly) felt that your life would be better and easier,  if you stopped drinking?
4. Have you ever said to yourself, “I can stop drinking anytime I want”, and then poured yourself another drink?
5. When having guests or going to a party, do you ever pour yourself a secret drink, before-hand, just to ‘get in the mood’?
6. Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or two, and then found yourself drinking again within one or two days?
7. Does your drinking ever cause trouble at home?  At school? On the job?
8. Do you ever have black-outs? Partial memory loss?
9. Have you ever gotten drunk when it was the last thing in the world you wanted to do?
10. Have you ever switched from one kind of liquor to another in hopes the change would keep you from getting drunk?

Simple, aren’t they?  But that simplicity is deceiving, and all the disbelief in the world won’t change the truth of them.  Or your answers.

Take Question 8.  A blackout doesn’t mean ‘passing out’.   Blacking out means that you were on your feet, talking, laughing, dancing, or whatever,  but the next day you can’t remember one thing of what happened.  You ‘blacked out’ and it’s a mean thing, for no one there would have seen one thing odd in your behavior.

Now, it doesn’t help if a spouse or parent recognizes these traits and tries to help by telling you.  The one who has the disease will fight back, maintaining ‘there is no problem’,  (See No. 4) and, anyway, ‘living with you would drive anyone to drink’.
And if No. 7 is brought up, it will always be someone else’s fault.  Always, always, always, and never, never, never, theirs.

But thank heavens today we all know about alcoholism from TV, internet, radio or magazines.  You will find AA meetings in your own neighborhood, across town, or if you wish to be truly anonymous, there are groups which absolutely insist upon it.  Where even  your Last Name is forbidden from use and Nick-Names only allowed.

It’s not an easy journey, but the sooner the alcoholic recognizes the disease, and only then, can it be controlled.   And, as I once learned, it is not a case of just the alcoholic needing help, but everyone whose life has been closely touched also needs help.  Which is why meetings for the non-alcoholic partner, teens, adults and even for adult children of alcoholics are well attended.

It’s a mean, progressive disease, and if someone recognizes the disease and stops drinking, but, years later decides one small drink would do no harm after all this time, they’ll find it  one  horrible mistake, for the disease progresses whether you drink or not, and that ‘first drink’ doesn’t react as it did years before, but in a far more terrible way, and stopping far harder to do.  It’s nothing to play games with.  At all.

As I said, I quite often get requests for these words to be repeated, and I hope that the one I met so briefly, will get the help that is now so easy to find.  Miracles do happen, you know, and my trust in such is why I now,  and again repeat my words, at the beginning of what is usually a time of heavier than usual casual, social drinking, and that my words just might help at least one such person.  Cross your fingers.  Mine are.