Sometimes, there is a fine line that distinguishes family tradition from superstition and still even further from habit. This prompt had me recalling how my own grandmother used to throw salt over her shoulder any time she knocked over the salt shaker. It wasn’t anything she tried hiding or was embarrassed about. It was something she just did. When I asked her why one time, she responded that spilling salt was bad luck.
It wasn’t long before I was tossing the shaker behind my back anytime I knocked it over. It wasn’t because I necessarily believed that spilling salt was bad luck. I think it is more a way of staying somehow connected to my grandmother and the memory of her: How in her own way it was a superstition, and in mine, a tradition.
Bizarre Family Traditions
Arleen fell to the floor grabbing her foot in excruciating pain. No matter how many times it happens, she will never get used to it, nor will she ever learn to stop walking barefoot in the house!
She’s been through this enough times. “Breathe in, Breath out…breathe through the pain.” She tells herself.
Walking through the gritty mess in the small room on a daily basis was bad enough; not to mention the tracking from room to room. She thinks about the hot, humid days of summer spent here, when it isn’t a stretch to pretend being in a small beach bungalow instead, what with the intense smell of salt in the air.
Looking down at the inch-long cut just under her big toe, she could have sworn she saw it throbbing, but it was most likely just the blood rushing to her head at the onset of pain. It’s a good thing Sonja wasn’t here to witness this yet again.
And as if on cue, “Ha! You’ve really mastered the art of self-inflicting pain, haven’t you?” she said while working her way to the sink for a cool washcloth. Her words were like adding salt to a wound.
“Well, I wouldn’t have to worry about walking barefoot if we didn’t have the nasty habit of throwing sodium chloride all about!”
“You know the deal. Whenever we gather here for a meal we all must take a pinch of salt and throw it over our shoulders in honor of the Sunday meals we all spent with G-mom.” Sonja lowered herself to the floor with the cool washcloth and squeezed a little of the water onto the cut on her sister’s foot.
“aaaaahhhh…Thank you so much! Hey, why is it we do that again?” Arleen asked.
“You know, I guess you are too young to remember, but every time we sat down to eat, G-mom would grace us with one of her tales of when she was young and in the process would inevitably knock the salt shaker over at least a dozen times.”
“How did she do that by simply telling a story?” asked Arleen as she took the rag from Sonja’s hand to clean the area around the cut.
“I think it was because she spoke more with her hands than anything else. It was kind of comical to watch, really. Each time she knocked it over she’d get flustered and grab the shaker off the table, pour a pinch in the palm of her hand and toss it behind her. If anyone wanted to salt their meal, they would just stand behind her with their plate up against her back!”
“That’s just silly.” Replied Arleen.
“Yes, but that was G-mom for you.” Sonja reflected.
Sonja laughed, “Yes, that too, but I was thinking more along the lines of affectionately clumsy.”
“Ok, but let’s make a new tradition of sweeping up after our meals. “ The tiny grains of salt began to dig into exposed flesh, and Arleen stood to wipe the crystals away.
As both girls turned to leave, neither saw the old salt shaker fall to the floor in the tiny kitchen G-mom called home for 80 years.