Tag Archives: superstitions

Happy Leap Day

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Why it’s special to me…

My whole life I was blessed to have not one, but TWO, Uncle Johns.  Uncle John Flanigan married my precious Aunt Ruby, about whom I have written numerous times.  Uncle John Bryant married my larger-than-life Aunt Martha, about whom I have also shared memories here.  Uncle John Bryant was unique in several ways, not the least of which was his birthday, February 29, 1928.  Just as Mama’s July 4 birthday and Aunt Martha’s May 5 “Cinco de Martha” birthday seemed to foreshadow their personalities and idiosyncrasies, so did Uncle John’s Leap Day birthday.  He was without a doubt one of the most fun people in our family.

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The above picture was made in 1971, with him and Aunt Martha all dressed up fancy for either an Eastern Star event or, more likely, a Lion’s Club function.  He was a longtime member/officer/President of his club in Knoxville, an organization which devotes itself to helping people with impaired vision and blindness.  One of the ties in my ugly necktie collection has a lion embroidered on it, and I think it might have been his.  The above picture also shows him the way I always think of him, goofing off and cutting up.

He and Aunt Martha were a huge influence on me as I grew up, especially in my love for dogs.  They never had human children, choosing instead to be dog parents, and the first dogs I ever remember getting to know belonged to them.  Very early in their marriage they raised a Fox Terrier named Trixie, but the only dogs I remember are Chihuahuas.  Susie was the first I remember, followed by Buffy and then Ginger.  (Chihuahuas and other small breeds have long life spans, so Aunt Martha and Uncle John’s dogs were with them for a long time, with the exception of Tina, of whom I have no pictures and Aunt Martha always swore that the vet killed.)

 

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His way of showing affection was teasing.  For much of my childhood before Granny died, he and Aunt Martha would come over almost every Friday night, Susie, or later Buffy, in tow, wrapped in a little red flannel blanket (which I now own and sometimes put in Roy’s dog bed).  He was a big barrel of a man, about 6 feet, 4 inches in height and carrying all his weight around his waist.  He’d come ambling into the house laughing and saying, “What are you up to, Rastus?”  (I’m not sure where the name Rastus came from.  The only thing similar I’ve ever heard is the name Erastus in the Bible.)  His odd sense of humor became more finely honed once he went to work for the funeral home.  Those fellows developed an unusual sense of humor in response, I think, to the sadness they saw so much of the time, as well as to the frequent overnight shifts they worked.

Around Christmas every year, Aunt Martha would get her promotional funeral home calendars, share some with the kinfolks, and then mark her copy every three days for the nights Uncle John would be staying over at the mortuary on call.  Often, when his overnight fell on a Friday, I’d go and spend the night with her and the dog.  Sometimes those Friday overnights were when Mama, Aunt Ruby, “Mamaw” Allred and I would pile into the car and head up there for a late-into-the-night quilting party.  He was a bit superstitious about Friday the 13th, and when his overnights were on that date, Aunt Martha sometimes would call him and, in her best scary voice, remind him, “It’s Friday…the 13th!!!!!”

Sadly, I lost both of my Uncle Johns within about 6 months of each other.  Uncle John Bryant was semi-retired, and had gone in to work at the funeral home one chilly day in January, 1992, when he had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and was taken to Baptist Hospital, lasting for another 8 days but never to awaken.  Not long before he went into the hospital I remember telling a friend at my job how cool it was that in 1992 Uncle John would get to have another “real” birthday.  He spent that one and all the ones since in Heaven.  I spent his next to last night with him in the hospital, and he began what I now understand was the active dying stage while I was with him.  All I knew then was that the nurse said I should call Aunt Martha and have her come as soon as she could, but he held on for many hours after that.  I was not present for his death and that bothered me for a long time.  Now I know it just wasn’t meant for me to be there, and that’s OK.  I’ll see him again someday.

He loved the Tennessee Vols and the Lion’s Club.  He loved going to the 1982 World’s Fair and seeing all the sights there.  He loved to joke about retiring and opening up a hot dog stand outside Neyland Stadium and becoming a millionaire.  He loved to joke, period.  He loved the succession of little dogs that were part of his and Aunt Martha’s family, and they both passed that love of dogs down to me.  He loved Aunt Martha and her kinfolks.  And he loved me.

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The Confidence Charms

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Musician Superstition

Lots of people have superstitions. Black cats and sidewalk cracks don’t bother me, but I always knock on wood. I can’t help it, it’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I don’t even remember how it got started, or when. I only know that I have to do it. It’s almost pathological!

Athletes, performers and musicians often have some ritual that they follow, or some lucky garment or charm that they wear or carry. I don’t believe in luck. Luck, to me, implies something randomly working out well. I don’t believe in random, either. I believe in preparation, blessing and confidence.

That being said, I have a musician superstition of my own, a set of confidence charms that I wear for every concert, solo, audition, interview or any other occasion (musical or otherwise) when I feel like I need a little extra confidence. The collection has grown over the years. When I was a teenager, my only charm was a simple, small gold treble clef that my parents had given me for Christmas or a birthday. I wore this pendant for every musical event that was important to me, from wedding solos to All-State Chorus auditions and performances, to my college choir tours and voice recitals. I gave this charm to my friend Kathryn as she was graduating from college the year after I did. I found a replacement treble clef shortly after that and began wearing it, but it didn’t look like the original.Image

At some point I added the gold heart locket that my sweet husband, Jeff, had surprised me with for Christmas one year. On one side it contains a photo of him on our wedding day. The other side has a picture of our first dog, Ernie The Wonder Beagle.Image

After Mama died, I purchased a tiny gold and ruby cross pendant. Ruby was her birthstone and I wanted something in ruby to honor her.Image

I began wearing the cross with the locket and the treble clef, sometimes on a necklace, sometimes on a bracelet. Later on I found another treble clef charm that looks more like my original one, so I added it to the collection.ImageThe most recent addition is a tiny broken watch, and the story that goes along with it. Mama was notorious for over-winding watches, and her old jewelry box contained several little ones from the 1950’s that no longer worked for her over-zealous winding habits. I added one of them to my collection of confidence charms while I was doing a ministry class in a hospital last year, as a reminder that the present moment is all we have.Image

I wore my charms every night I was on call at the hospital because I never knew what a given night would hold and I definitely needed confidence. Countless times I touched those charms as I prayed for a patient, a family member…for wisdom and compassion as I tried to minister to them.

The charms are currently on a gold charm holder pin, which has been their configuration for a while now. I also have a charm holder pendant that I can wear on a necklace and will probably alternate between the pin and the necklace.Image

Some people might think my confidence charms are silly. I will just say that they are sentimental. Each one has a special meaning and history. They are beautiful to look at and soothing to touch. When I have a special occasion or a challenging day, wearing them makes me feel more peaceful. Someday, along with the rest of my belongings, the charms will be passed down to someone I love, and I hope they give that person the same sense of peace and calm that I wear them for. And I hope that person will feel the love that is passed down with them.