Information about my Informant
My informant grew up in Hacienda Heights where he went to high school, and received his bachelor’s degree from USC. He is a game designer and is currently working for a social mobile gaming company based in Westwood.
“‘Stepping on your mother’s back,’ we heard that a lot in the playground. Um.”
Collector: “I haven’t heard that one; what is it?”
“Stepping on a–uh, you step on a crack, you break your mother’s back. So you don’t wanna do that.”
Collector: “So like just…”
“Avoid the cracks in the ground.”
This sounds like a classic superstition spread on the playground. According to my research, the origins of this rhyme/proverb had a different variation in the second half. Instead of “break your mother’s back,” it’s rumored that the original rhyme was “your mother will turn black,” which indicated that stepping on a crack would result in your having a black child (which would taint your whole family line with “black blood”). My informant did not know anything about these origins or even why stepping on a crack would break his mother’s back. In my opinion, there is no real fear being played upon here, but it’s more of a children’s game, where the desire to not want to break one’s mother’s back leads to the child hopping around on the sidewalk, enthusiastically trying to avoid stepping on any crack in the pavement.