Childhood
Folk Beliefs
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Children’s Rhyme/Superstition – Los Angeles, California

“Step on a crack break, your mother’s back”

Eric is a 23-year-old USC graduate. He grew up in Beverly Hills and now continues to work in Los Angeles as an accountant. Eric and I were discussing childhood riddles and superstitions when he remembered, “step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” Eric first remembers learning this superstition from his parents. His parents, who are also born and raised in Los Angeles, remember learning the saying when they were kids themselves. Eric explained, “well I think it made walking more interesting, especially on my family trips when we would do a lot of walking.” He continued on to say that “it made no sense at all, but I used to wonder if I did step on a crack by accident would something really happen?” Eric shared this childhood superstition/riddle with me when we were out to lunch at Mulberry Street Pizza. The restaurant was crowded so we had to talk loudly. Eric was animated when he shared this superstition with me, and he was also laughing because of how seriously he took it when he was very young. There was a woman, probably in her 30s, at the table next to us that overheard our conversation and chimed in about how she used to avoid all cracks because she was convinced that it was true.

For Eric, learning the superstition was only part of it, but then actually practicing it was what made it important. He avoided cracks since he was about 4-years-old and continuing for about 5 years, but he says that sometimes even now if something reminds him of it, then he’ll avoid big cracks in the ground if he can. There is something about childhood superstitions that is extremely convincing and exciting. With this particular superstition, it is almost that little kids are given some power because it is up to them to protect their mothers’ backs. I am sure Eric was compelled to share the item with me because it was such a huge part of his upbringing and because for him, it was something passed down from his parents. I also remember this superstition and how my friends and I would skip and still try to avoid the cracks, we made it as complicated as possible so that it was more of a game and more challenging.

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