LUCKY CHARMS: It isn’t just a Cereal
“See a penny, pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck.”
“Don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back.”
“When you see a hummingbird, think of me.”
I grew up hearing the first of these two “sayings” from my father, which resulted in, while walking on cracked cement, a strange, hopping gait and a jar full of pennies stashed in my childhood closet. They became so much more than superstitious sayings to me. They became my prayers.
The third saying/prayer about the hummingbird was shared with me by my mother-in-law Roselene, during a conversation we had in a swinging bench the last summer of her life. A hummingbird flew past and she declared it her spirit. When she died, she said, the hummingbird was to be the sign that she was near. This comforted me and brought me back to my childhood to better times with my father before the cancer, before he too, died.
I remember one walk in particular with my father, when I was about eleven or so, right before his diagnosis. Our car had broken down in town and instead of calling my mother to come and get us he decided we needed an adventure. We walked the whole way home, which must have been about 5 miles. On the way, we stopped at our local pizza place Di Ramos in Huntington, got an ice cream cone at the deli and talked about anything and everything, all the while walking hand in hand thru the main street of our town. It is to this day one of my favorite memories of time spent with my father.
I learned so much on that walk. What we spoke about was important in a father/daughter way, however what was even more important and special to me, was the two of us jumping from cement block to cement block, avoiding the deep crevices and cracks at all costs while searching for abandoned pennies. Each time one of us stepped on a crack, my father would screech in pain and grab at his lower back, imitating either his mother or my own. I in turn would laugh hysterically; because his impressions of both cracked back women were spot on!
When we came upon a penny, we would always bend down to see which side it was on…Head’s, of course meant good luck, while Tails, meant what…bad luck? I never knew, still don’t. We picked them all up regardless of how they lay. It didn’t matter to us. These pennies brought us closer and gave me comfort. I always knew when my father saw a penny he was thinking of me, because he would bring them home for me from wherever he was during the day to add to my ever filling jar of adopted lucky pennies; my very own “lucky jar.”
When I think of these sayings or prayers, as I have come to call them, what I realize is that my father, in his infinite wisdom, was showing me he would always be there for me and always be with me. He was passing down my very own lucky charms. It was our familial mythology. Isn’t that what all things that are passed from generation to generation are? Family Mythology? My prayers and these items became my own personal Totems, representing what I imparted to them. A basic penny, cracked pavement, and a bird can all of a sudden become an enchanted Talisman, there to guard and protect, to love and comfort us.
This is why I have passed these prayers and their meanings to my own children. Esmé, my middle daughter, has a funny little thing that she does with the pennies she finds. She has imparted what I’ve told her and the love she has for my father into personifying the penny as my father. When she finds a penny, heads up or down, it doesn’t matter to her one wit either, she knows, without any doubt, that it is her grandfather. He visits her this way. She puts the penny into her pocket and carries him around with her all day. She talks to the penny, she clutches it in her grubby, chubby little girl hand and kisses it as though instead of copper, her lips touch his warm cheek.
“Look Mama! Grandpa came to school with me today. I kept him in my pocket all day so I should take him out now and give him air.”
This is what she tells me. She stashes these pennies not in a jar, but everywhere around our house. I believe she feels my father, her grandfather, more this way. He surrounds her, guards her.
She has a similar relationship to her Nana through her personal Totem of a hummingbird. After Roselene passed, we told the girls that every time they see a hummingbird to think of her. They will see one hover in flight at our kitchen window and in unison, the three girls will delightfully exclaim, “There’s Nana! She’s watching us!”
The other day Esmé came home from school and sorrowfully said that there was a dead hummingbird outside of her classroom.
“So sad,” she said. “My Nana has died all over again.”
That she connected the two so perfectly, poignantly and with such clarity made me realize how important these connections are; Be it a shiny penny, a cracked sidewalk, or a fluttering hummingbird. We impart our loved ones spirit into the thing that reminds us of them and at once we possess them, luckily, all over again. I think our lost loved ones are always with us, but having a penny in the pocket, while stepping over a splintered driveway and feeling the breeze of a hummingbirds wings, ensures it:
Added insurance that we are never alone.
So the next time you feel the need to be close to the ones you’ve lost, pray for the things that brought you closer and create your own special amulet of love and comfort.
Know that “Lucky Charms” is not just for breakfast, but is for always.