Me: “I don’t get when people say they have items or things that are lucky. I don’t feel like I have anything like that.”
Suzie: “What do you mean…you don’t have a lucky number or outfit or anything?”
Me: “Haha…no. I don’t think so….Do you?”
Suzie: “One HUNDRED percent. My number is 10:28. Every time I look at the clock it is 10:28 whether it’s am or pm. And I always notice because it’s the same number as my birthday…October 28th. So it’s my lucky number.”
Me: “When did you first start to notice that?”
Suzie: “I actually think I started noticing it when I met my husband because we’d always call each other or text each other at 10:28. He’d call and be like ‘Hi Suzie, its 10:28 so I thought of you…what are you up too?’ right when we started dating.”
Background: Suzie is a fifty-two year old mom currently living in Calabasas, CA. She has been married to her husband for 25 years and they have three kids together.
Context: I had this conversation with Suzie after a dinner at her house.
Analysis: The idea of something being “lucky” is so interesting to analyze because it is so unique to each individual. I don’t have anything in my life that sticks out as being “lucky” and neither do any of my immediate family members; we learn so many tendencies from our parents and siblings, so I think this has a lot to do with it. The only thing I could think of in this conversation with Suzie was that my favorite number as a kid was “2” and that was only because my brother’s jersey number was always 2 in the different sports he played. This furthers demonstrates the ideal in Suzie’s story that “lucky” or “favorite” things result from important moments or relationships in your life.
In a conversation about upcoming travel plans, Lida brought up a ritual of her own:
“Before I get on a plane I touch the outside of the plane with a flat palm and if can, I touch the first window with a flat palm. I also walk on only with my right foot.”
I asked, when did you start doing that?
“I am really not sure when I started. I must have seen someone do it and then that was it. I did it every time and now I can’t fly unless I do it. I’m not sure if it’s a superstition but it’s kinda like a comfort thing. It’s a habit or like a routine that makes it seem like everything is gonna be like it always is when I’m flying.”
Background: Lida is a twenty-year old born and raised in Boston, MA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA attending USC as a sophomore. Her parents are divorced and she has two sisters.
Context: Lida brought up her ritual when we were talking about the upcoming trip she had the following weekend to fly home from school.
Analysis: This story totally resonated with me because I feel like I do many things that have become a “routine” simply for the sake of comfort and safety. I’ve always been an okay flyer, but my mom on the other hand, is a really nervous flyer. If I am on a plane with my mom she will always hold my hand for the entirety of the take-off and then again for the landing, but will be totally fine while we’re in the air. She has done this since I was a little girl, so now it has become instinct whenever I fly with her, and definitely a gesture of comfort. It is interesting to analyze how a gesture that will realistically not change any outcome of future events can create peace of mind and a calm disposition. I think the concept of folkloric “habits” in regard to beliefs or superstitions is an intriguing concept of study as they dramatically vary person to person and can be very uncommon or seem weird to others.
I asked, do you do anything specific with your family for holidays?:
“I have a really big family so Thanksgiving dinner is always 20 people or so. Every year at Thanksgiving dinner we each write down one “-ing” verb and one noun and put them all in two separate hats. Everyone picks one of each out of the hats and the combination of the two is your ‘Thanksgiving name’ with my grandfather acting as the chief.
When you pick your name you say it our loud and everyone else responds: ‘And the crowd says “ahhhhh”’
Person 1: I am… whispering three toed sloth
Family response: and the crowd says Ahhhh“
Background: Mae is a 19 year old girl raised in Westwood, CA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents are originally from Chicago and Little Rock, and she lived in Princeton, NJ briefly as a young girl.
Context: Mae shared this story with me when she came to my house to celebrate Easter.
Analysis: Holiday traditions are incredibly personal to each family, and even people who celebrate the same holidays can have an entirely different way of doing so. My family, for example, doesn’t play any particular games like this at Thanksgiving, and our Thanksgiving dinner is usually one of our more formal holiday celebrations though it is always light-hearted and fun. Our Christmas dinner, as a matter of fact, is always extremely casual and we typically order Chinese food or have left overs, which you would think would be a more formal holiday. This further exemplifies how much variation there is in celebrations depending on specific family traditions. Similarly, however, my family always has Thanksgiving-themed hats that everyone receives on their place settings. It is really cool to hear what the unique ways that my friends celebrate different holidays with their families.
I asked what I should do if my ear is starting to hurt and I have a slight cold:
Response: “You don’t want to get sick and get an ear infection…especially if your ears are already starting to hurt. You need to go grab the garlic drops we have…they will prevent you from getting an ear infection, but won’t be any good if you already have one. Go grab the bottle and then run the dropper under hot water so it warms up then grab a paper towel and set it down on the table and lay your head down on one side so the drops don’t get on anything else. Just put a couple drops in and let it sit for a second. And make sure it really feels like it gets in there. And then do the other side, you’ll be good.”
Background: He is 53 years old and raised in Los Gatos, CA. He attended Santa Clara University and now lives with his wife in Los Angeles. He is a father of two.
Context: He shared this home remedy with me in our kitchen when I was beginning to feel sick.
Analysis: In my opinion, believing in home remedies is entirely dependent on how you were raised and the home remedies that your parents practice. My dad told me this remedy, which immediately gives it validity in my worldview. Remedies are such a cool thing that gets passed down through familial lines, and I think is an interesting thing to analyze family to family. You never think about where, when, and from whom you first heard a home remedy once it becomes part of your personal belief system. One home remedy could sound completely ridiculous to someone whose own family holds different beliefs. Who it is that shares with you their home remedy is extremely relevant to whether or not you will try it or accept it as your own folk belief as well.
I asked my mother if she has any unique home remedies:
“I swear by my home-remedy cure for hiccups. All I do is eat a spoonful of creamy peanut butter straight out of the jar and it always works for me.”
I then asked where she learned this:
“I actually figured it out for myself. Hiccups always annoyed me so much so I tried all of the typical remedies people suggest and nothing ever worked. I figured out my peanut butter trick sometime around my last year in college and it’s worked ever since.”
Background: Tamara has lived her entire life in Southern California and attended USC from 1979 to 1983.
Context: My mom shared this trick with me while sitting at our kitchen table eating breakfast.
Analysis: A remedy is such an interesting thing in and of itself because each one is so different depending on who you ask, and most typically, people swear by the specific remedies that work for them and disregard remedies from other people. One remedy that could work every single time for one person could never work once for another, which I think makes them a really interesting topic of study in cultures around the world. I have grown up attempting to cure hiccups by eating a spoonful of peanut butter because it is what I learned from my mom. Depending on where and how you were raised, you have a very different view of what really has the ability to heal.