- Latin. marvels; miracles
My mother was a superstitious woman. When I was younger, she would walk the five blocks with me to school every day, regardless of the weather, unless a black cat happened to walk past our stoop as we were exiting our brownstone. On those days she would stop abruptly and block me from descended the concrete steps, shielding my eyes as if she was holding me back from a gruesome crime scene.
She’d usher me inside and we’d read the newspaper or one of her encyclopedias all day, “to make up for what you’re missing in school, Anna.”
For my mother, being superstitious was fine, but ignorance was intolerable.
“Evil may be trying to perch on our front step, but we’re not going to let it ruin your education.”
One day, during one of our impromptu homeschooling sessions I was reading through the entry on currency in the encyclopedia aloud, and somehow that caught the residual vapors in my mother’s mind from early this morning.
“Oh my goodness! I did have a dream last night,” she said. “I was at a huge wooden table with a salt shaker that was as big as a man, just having my dinner and it the salt toppled over on the table and completely covered my food. It turned into maggots.”
“Maybe that’s your body’s way of saying you put too much salt onto the chicken last night?”
I was trying to be helpful.
She had given me the kind of glare that precedes a quick slap in the mouth, but she restrained herself.
“No, it means someone I know is about try and steal some of my money.”
I loved my mother, but often felt that I couldn’t understand her or her ways.
In her dreams, salt being spilled equated to money being stolen in real life. And a dream in which moths morphed into talking butterflies meant she should expect mirabilia that week.
There were days I relied upon my mother’s beliefs to try and avoid school and the reproach of my classmates. I would hurl meat out of my second story bedroom window, praying for a black cat to spot the bait. Those were the mornings after receiving one of my mother’s unexpected late-night bowl haircuts. She was a woman with a slight amount of talent in almost every area except for hair and makeup, which was okay for her. She was naturally beautiful. I looked more like my late father.
The cats were unreliable on bowl-haircut days. It was always the skittish white or tabby cats who pounced on the meat and ran away quickly as we left in the mornings. So we’d would walk those five blocks toward my school, my stomach tightening in anticipation of of my classmates’ scathing comments.
In sixth grade I had the worst photo in the entire yearbook, but had straight A’s despite missing 20 days of school–all the reading paid off.
As I grew older, I stopped let go of my misgivings concerning my mother’s approach to life because I noticed that I was somehow turning into her. The weird dreams were one thing, but when I started avoiding every black cat I saw it was obvious that my mother’s ways had become my own.
Now, I don’t fight it. Instead I just slowly back into my brownstone and resign myself to read and try again tomorrow.