Thursday, June 12, 2008

Things My Mother Taught Me...


I spent a goodly part of my childhood on a farm, in Iowa, and everyone around me seemed old! My mother had been nearing forty when I was born, all my aunts and uncles were in their fifties and sixties, and my grandfather was over eighty. (Of course now that I'm of that "certain age", my views on getting older have changed, but back then, everyone seemed ancient!)

What does one have to do with the other? Well, because my entire family were farmers and had grown up in a different era than all my little friends' relations, people in my family appeared to know "stuff" that my friends' parents didn't. They knew if the underside of the leaves on a tree were showing, rain was on the way. They knew when the cattle and horses grew heavy coats, fall was coming to an end and it would be an early winter. They knew that one hundred days after a fog, you'd have rain. My elders had spent their youth in a world without central heating, telephones, and before the coming of the rural electric cooperatives, electricity. They didn't have the weather man telling them when a storm front was moving in, or if snow was expected. And because their livelihood was tied to the land and to the health of their livestock, they paid attention to signs and The Farmer's Almanac. Yes, folks, I'm talkin' old wives' tales, and my family had hundreds of them!!!

Here are some of my favorites:
Opening an umbrella in the house is bad luck.
If you wean calves in the dark of the moon, they won't bawl for their mamas.
Never put a hat on a bed.
Death comes in three's.
If your ears burn, someone's talking about you…if you nose itches, you'll kiss a fool.
Never light three cigarettes with the same match.
Spilling salt causes bad luck and to change that bad luck, you must toss a pinch of the spilt salt over your left shoulder.
If it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain the next seven Sundays in a row.
Carrying a buckeye brings good luck.
Goosebumps mean someone just walked over your grave. (Honestly, as a child-that one never made a lot of sense to me. After all, how could someone step on your grave if you weren't dead yet??)
It's bad luck to walk under a ladder.
Potatoes must be planted on Good Friday.
And last, but not least, my all-time favorite and one I truly believe in:
People act strange around the time of a full moon.

Oh, I forgot to mention one more. When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I decided to make sauerkraut. (Looking back now-I don't know why I did it, but it must've seemed like a good idea at the time!) I think I put up about thirty jars of the stuff. The next day, I called my mother and proudly related my accomplishment to her. Unfortunately her response was "You know they won't seal."

"What?" I replied, thinking of all that hard work going to waste. "Why not?"

"You're pregnant," she said, "sauerkraut doesn't seal for pregnant women."

Seeing the connection between the seals on ceramic jar lids and bouncing hormones was beyond me, and I was getting this advice from a woman who thought talking to her houseplants made them grow, but I didn't argue. A few months later, I discovered that, yes indeedy, the seals on at least half the jars had failed! Pregnant or not, I never made sauerkraut again!

So how about you? What are some of your favorite old wives' tales?
Take care and have a good one!
Shirley

9 comments:

Emma Petersen said...

and I was getting this advice from a woman who thought talking to her houseplants made them grow, but I didn't argue.

Hehe. You could have been talking about my mom and family. Hehe. I still believe quite a few on your list.

My nana had a thing about people "sweeping her feet". Like a broom brushing her feet. I have no idea why. I never asked but I did make sure never to get anywhere near her feet with a broom.

Throwing away hair. It had to be burned so a bird wouldn't carry it off and make a nest with it. :|

Talking about people when you were pregnant. Not eating what you craved when you where pregnant. Being around certain people when you were pregnant.

Eating lemons or drinking milk on your menses. :|

Putting your purse on the floor.

Hehe. I can go on and on.

Darla said...

Oh, I heard a LOT of these when I was a kid. My mom was an emergency room nurse for many years, and she swears the last one is true--that they the ER was always busier, and with weirder things, on a full moon. They also swore that more women went into labor during the full moon.

azteclady said...

The full moon thing? I totally agree--cause I see it around me.

My grandmother, who had the greenest thumb you ever saw, pruned and planted and the like according to the phases of the moon. To this day, that's how I garden :grin:

Many of those in your list--or close variants--were repeated often in my house, and some made sense (house full of breakable knick-knacks + open umbrella = destruction waiting to happen), but others still make me scratch my head ("if you knit something wearable for the person you love, s/he'll make your life miserable"--huh?)

Lori T said...

I have heard of all of those. My great great Grandma used to say that you should not have cats around babies because they would steal a babie's breath. She was mortified that my Mom had a cat when I was little.

Where in Iowa were you? I was born in LeMars and the majority of my family...Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins...still live there.

Shirley Damsgaard said...

Hey, thanks to everyone for sharing your family's tales!! I hadn't heard the one about "sweeping her feet," or "putting your purse on the floor." (I'm in trouble with that one!! My purse is always on the floor!!) And the cats in the same room as a baby?? Same here--according to my mother that wasn't a superstition, but a FACT!! I was NOT to let one of the cats around her grandchildren when they were babies!

And to answer Lori's question--I spent most of my childhood out in the boonies, on a farm near Wintereset. (of BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY fame). It's about thirty miles south of Des Moines.

Oh, and one more thing--I swear this just happened as I was sitting at my keyboard typing--I found a bird in my house!!! Not good, not good!! (I suppose either my dog brought it in, or it came in the door that I leave open in the mornings for the dog! I did manage to catch it using a broom and a dish towel. The little bugger is now safely residing in the bushes in front of my house, and yes, all the doors are now shut!) A bird in the house is supposed to be REALLY bad luck AND it happened on Friday the 13th! (Do you think I should just go back to bed and pull the covers over my head for the rest of the day???) As a result, I'm finishing this post as sage smoke wafts around me! (I've a big ball burning in my abalone shell!) So everyone, send a lot of positive energy my way today, okay?? Looks like I might need it!

Best,
Shirley

Shirley Damsgaard said...

Whoops--I was so upset about the bird thing that I spelled Winterset incorrectly! Sorry!

Alexandra said...

Some of this saying are the same in Italy.

They also use to say that if your hand is scrachy for no reason if it is the left you will earn money and the right loose some.

Depending on the ear that is whistling for no reason someone is saying good or bad stuff on you.

if you dream of babies a bad news is coming and if you dream of loosing your teeth you will earn some money.

Angie Fox said...

Oh my, Shirley. Should we send someone to check on you later? You don't have any black cats around, do you? Oh wait. You have them on your book covers. Hide the book covers!

My mom is a nurse and she also swears that her patients (and the doctors) get crazy around a full moon. She also believes death comes in threes, says she's seen it happen too many times.

Amberkatze said...

I am sure if I put my mind to it I could think of some really cool ones I learnt as I was growing up but that was such a long time ago...

Anyway here is an Austrian one for you that keeps haunting me!

Apparently if you sit at the table and on the corner (you know the table is full) then you will get a nasty mother-in-law.

Guess who keeps on ending up sitting on the corner...