Sunday, January 3, 2010

Setting the Tone

I believe I have mentioned that my mother is the Queen of Superstitions. In fact, some of what my sisters and I lump together as “superstitions” are probably a combination of Farmer's almanac applications, some folklore, some old wives’ tales, some religious traditions, and only a few can't be-classified-as-anything-other-than superstitions.

Saving the ends of our umbilical cords and putting them in coin envelopes, and then sending us off on our respective first days of school with them in our pockets, was supposed to make us smart and is definitely one of those can't-be-explained-any-other-way-than Superstition (although, truth be told, we all excelled in school). Not harvesting cabbage to make the year's sauerkraut until after All Souls' Day (maybe All Saints') probably had more to do with the weather and when cabbage was actually ready for picking, or maybe taking the time on a holy day to prepare for the winter, than anything else, but over time it garnered an or else clause that I can't put my finger on (it won't ferment right?). To this day that is when my mother and father prepare their barrel of cabbage to ferment and become our year's supply of sauerkraut. They won’t tempt the fate of a bad batch or a growing a third eye or whatever else, and every year the sauerkraut is great.

This week my mother has no doubt been making notes about the weather on each of these twelve days of Christmas, which is supposed to foretell the weather for the twelve months to follow. If it snows on the seventh day it doesn't mean it will snow in July, but I think it means it will be a wet month. I'm not sure my mother follows up on the accuracy, but for those twelve days she makes notes and for twelve months they can be found among her coupons on the kitchen counter.

Another one of her superstitions says that how you spend the first day of the New Year is how you will spend the whole year. Interesting, right? I must say that this is one of those I have come to see not as superstitious at all, but instead embrace as making a lot of sense. There needs to be a little flexibility in the interpretation, of course—especially for those of you out there who spent the better part of January 1 nursing a hangover and making empty promises to God so you could feel better fast—but it makes perfect sense to me. It’s about setting a tone at the beginning of a new year, and an opportunity for fresh starts. Maybe you don’t want or need a fresh start. In that case it could be about taking stock and appreciating the way you live and who you love. Maybe it’s just about making the most of your day, on the first day of the New Year.

How did I spend the first day of the year? That is, am I being smug?

Well, I woke up around 7, made coffee, then sat and wrote for a little while. I wanted to get some writing time in because I didn’t know when I’d have free time to write again for a couple more days because I was having company. When I finished writing I went to the gym, and then came home and got ready for what was a very nice weekend.

So if, according to my mother’s superstition, that means this year I will continue to take care of my physical and creative selves and enjoy the company of special people, I am happy. And I’m happy to be smug if that’s what you deem me to be. (Or maybe you’re just pissed that you didn’t know about the superstition and spent the first day of the year looking for the cold spot in your sheets, or worse, on your tile floor, wishing you had Yoo-Hoo and a Big Mac. )

Either way, Happy New Year to us all.

1 comment:

Tam said...

This is a fantastic post, J! I love every bit of it. And I am smiling for you that you spent the first day of the new year taking care of your creative and healthful soul. Go, you!
P.S. Yoo Hoo and a Big Mac. A girl after my own heart. :)

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