When I was a girl, my mom would tell stories from when she was a little girl on the farm. As a city kid, it was fascinating to hear stories of milking cows and picking beans (Grandpa could shoot milk right at a barn cat’s mouth!) It was hard work, she would say, but good, honest work.
My mom came from a large family, she had 6 brothers (one died as an infant) and 5 sisters. My mom was number 7 out of the bunch. How my Grandma kept them all in line, I’ll never know. Mommy said there was a tree out back that grew just the right sized switches and that’s how Grandma kept order.
Anyway, every now and again, my mom would spout some random wives tale or superstition that she had heard her from own mother. I was always fascinated by these, and some of them stuck right through to when I was raising my own kids.
You would recognize some, I’m sure, like Don’t go outside with your hair wet and Don’t swallow your gum, so I tried to remember some of the more obscure ones. There were a few that had to do with planting the garden (for a city girl, garden means flowers; for a country girl garden means three rows of beans, four rows of corn, three rows of cucumbers, two rows of tomatoes and so on).
Grandma wouldn’t let the girls pick beans if they were on their “monthlies”. I don’t know why and have tried to find where this belief comes from, to no avail. My mom said Grandma believed it would kill the beans or something. Even when my Grandma was very old and my mom was there taking care of her, she had a small garden out back. When Mommy would head out to pick beans, Grandma would holler to her to make sure she wasn’t at “that time”. My mom would roll her eyes and lie (like every other daughter on the planet who believes their mom is just silly).
Here are some of the ones my mom told me when I was a kid:
Cats should be kept away from babies, as they will suck the breath out of the child. Imagine the first time I found my cat in bed with the baby, all snuggled up to him! But then I realized the baby still was breathing and all was good.
An itchy ear means someone is talking about you. Right ear, they’re saying good things; left ear, they’re speaking ill of you. Even into my 40s my mom would ask, “Did your ears itch last night? I was talking about you”.
If a bird comes in the house, it’s a sign of death.
Another favorite story is the one about my Uncle John’s pet crow which was obviously not allowed in the house. When he would go to bed at night, he would open the window and the crow would come in and sleep on the bed with him.
It is bad luck to kill a ladybug.
It is bad luck to let milk boil over.
If you bite your tongue while eating, it is because you’ve recently told a lie. My mom used to say this one a lot. What?!
Do not talk on the phone during a lightning storm. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember that we have talked about the dangers of lightning. If you’re just joining us and are interested to know, you can read about it here. P.S. My mom was right.
A ring around the moon means rain is coming.
When we lived in Memphis with my mom and fall approached, little fuzzy caterpillars would be making their way to wherever little fuzzy caterpillars go in the fall, often times crossing the road to get there. My mom would tell us (us being me and her new audience, the grandkids) that the farmer’s would say that if there were a lot of fuzzy caterpillars crossing the road, it meant it was to be a bad winter.
Well, I can’t honestly remember if this is true, because when the winter was bad, she and I would be sitting around the fireplace, wine in hand, asking each other “Were there a lot of fuzzy caterpillars this past fall?”
With that being said, what I really want to know is…
How much winter does it mean we will have if the damn caterpillar is in my house??