What if I told you that I do not, ever, walk under a ladder? You could assume that it’s some quaint superstition. But if you asked me, I would tell you: I’m safety-minded. It was my job for nearly a decade. I don’t walk under ladders because I know something could fall on me (at the very least, the ladder could).
My dad was superstitious, so was my mom but to a lesser degree. Some of the superstitions he believed in just plain made me giggle. I’d tease him about it and he didn’t mind.
Dad had a thing about black cats (he also wouldn’t walk under a ladder and it WAS because of superstition). Now, it seems harmless enough, right? Yeah. Except one day, when Mom and Dad came home to what had been their first apartment. An event occurred that would become part of family lore.
Mom was pregnant (with me). So pregnant that she probably would have blocked a parking spot by the curb if she stood on the edge of it facing the street.
What do they find as they’re about to pull into the parking area of the apartment complex?
A black cat.
Sitting on a white car (this apparently makes it worse).
In dad’s way.
Staring at him.
Yeah… guess what happened next? My father stopped the car and just sat there. Dad couldn’t back up and park elsewhere. There was no place to turn (Montreal streets can be really narrow when there are cars parked on either side) and if he went forward, he would have to cross the cat’s eye line or something and risk the cat getting up and crossing his path (oh the horror). He turned to my mother and told her either he would leave the car right there where it was (and risk a ticket), or she would have to drive it in herself.
There was no negotiating.
Mom, couldn’t believe it. She tried to “talk some sense into him”… but nope. He stood firm. And then he got out of the car.
So, with all the grace that only the very pregnant woman can muster, Mom got herself out of the passenger side, waddled around the car over to the driver’s side and fiddled with the steering wheel to try and get enough clearance so that she might be able to wedge herself in there and drive the car in.
Mom almost got stuck. She was not happy. I can’t tell you how many times my mother recited this story, always rolling her eyes… and shooting looks at dad who just sat and crossed his arms. Mom almost injured herself in the groin when she tried to get out from behind the steering wheel sideways.
Everyone that heard this story chided my dad a little for putting the superstition first. Fortunately, it didn’t end badly.
One day, when I was older and wiser (well, as wise as a 6 year old can be)… I looked up at my dad and the following conversation took place:
“Um, Daddy?” said I, sitting on the floor and looking at the Saturday Comics section of the Montreal Gazette.
“Yes, Ann?”, he was reading the paper in his armchair.
“You know that story about the black cat and the car that Mom always tells?” (By the time I was six, I knew this story by heart.)
“Yes”, he answered, not looking up from behind the paper.
“It’s because black cats are bad luck, right?”
“Right”, Dad was a really patient man. He would always let me ask as many questions as I felt compelled to and he’d always answer me as best he could.
“Mom says that’s a silly stuperstition. Are stuperstitions real?”
“I believe so.” he answered, without correcting my pronunciation of the word as I was also known to say “pasghetti”. I think he figured I’d work it out in time.
“But Daddy, if they’re real, why did you let Mommy drive the car? Did she end up with bad luck?”
Apparently my mother had never brought this point up.
Dad lowered his paper, smiled at me and after a moment, the answer came to him and he said, “I let your mother make up her own mind. She’s old enough.”
Best answer he ever gave me.
It was a teaching moment. I had challenged him, not out of spite because as far as I was concerned, my Daddy hung the moon and there was nothing he couldn't do. I just needed to figure things out for myself and Daddy let me.
I still think the superstition is silly. But every time I see a black cat, I think of my dad... and I smile.