it’s just a stupid rock

Call me old fashioned, but there’s something about near-dismemberment by Chevy Cobalt that really sticks in my craw.

My mother’s early life was very different from mine. She grew up in Kuala Lumpur as part of a large family, something that remains completely alien to my small-city, only-child self. Before she went off the deep end, she tried to do her motherly duties by way of sharing some folksy wisdom with me; things that are usually passed down through the generations and recited with some air of mysticism. These little life tips rarely make any sense, even if they were once boiled in fact or strong superstition – it’s just How Things Are, and it will do you no good to question them.

I always assumed my mother was crazy, but it seems there may actually be something to some of her helpful tips. The “something” ranges from other people hearing the same thing from their mothers, like the “never give knives as a gift; always exchange a quarter instead or it’ll bring bad luck” that a few of you have also been told, to correlation-not-causation “proof”.

I wish I could remember all the things she told me instead of just the few that stand out. There are the completely nonsensical (and sadly untrue) – “eating your bread crusts will give you curly hair!”; the delightfully racist (and also untrue) – “if you sing at the dinner table, you’ll end up marrying a Chinaman!” , and those I still believe to this day, true or not – “an itchy ear means someone is talking about you!”.

Not all of the old wives’ tales were stories, though – some were just things she DID. A penny in every new purse or wallet, because giving an empty wallet meant you’d be broke all your life. Still setting out a full plate for my dad at every meal, including making him tea, in case he comes back and is hungry. Then there’s my personal favourite: putting walnuts in every corner of the house will keep the spiders away.

Logically, I know the walnuts are little more than Lisa’s Tiger-Repelling Rock. That being said, after the first month or so of mom being in that house which was virtually infested by man-eating spiders and their horrible horrible kin, I haven’t seen a single one. I asked why, and mom pointed to the walnuts – “spiders don’t like walnuts, so they don’t come in here anymore”. That doesn’t make *sense*. It’s just a nut in a shell! It has no special powers or anti-spider properties – and yet, mom’s house is spider-free. Who’s the crazy one here?

The answer is still her – okay, maybe she’s onto something re: walnuts, but she still pees in buckets – but it makes me wonder about the other tall tales she’s told me. Can I really prevent bad luck by knocking on wood? Will my sight become better if I eat carrots? Will it really fall off if I play with it too much? When I drop a fork or spoon, will a mysterious visitor appear within the hour?

I have a lot of research to do.

11 thoughts on “it’s just a stupid rock

  1. Chesnuts work great for that. Saved me when I lived in basement suites. Never figured out why – we could be overrun with spiders, but put some chesnuts in there (the hard shiny ones) and the spiders just didn’t stay.

  2. Huh. My critical thinking hat is failing me. I’ve heard that about chestnuts, too… and always just assumed that chestnuts had some mystical anti-spider chemical or smell or something.

    But upon further reflection, wtf?

    I’d google this further, but I’m afraid of the pictures I might see and I’m REALLY arachnophobic. :D

  3. You’re not alone Kimli. I grew up being told if I whistled in the house, I’d invite the devil into my heart. Same goes for money being exchanged for knives and money being put in purses and wallets.

    As for walnuts, not sure on that one. However, I’ve found chestnuts (freshly picked in the fall) do work with spiders. I’ve lived in my fair share of wolf spider infested basement suites over the years and chestnuts, for whatever reason, seem to work.

  4. I could see nut oils or other chemicals repelling spiders. Maybe. I want to test this now :)

    My (British) Mum would also never dream of giving an empty wallet as a gift. She’s never given me a knife, though, so I can’t comment on that!

  5. I will test the singing at the dinner table one and let you know my results.

    I believe I heard the penny in the new wallet thing from my mom as well.

  6. “Will it really fall off if I play with it too much?”

    Has it fallen off yet? Then you’re probably fine, though you may need to ask Ed to check on it regularly.

    I think my mom dealt with enough crap old wives’ tales so that she didn’t pester me with many. Maybe it comes from being the first career woman in the family possibly ever.

  7. my british mother would never give a purse/wallet as a gift without a coin in it.

    although this tree-nut thing is new. And interesting.

  8. Embrace your inner spider – they are a sign of a healthy environment. Spiders are incredibly sensitive (why the chestnut thing works…) and won’t tolerate a toxic environment. We have a crawlspace full of big ‘uns, and while I’m happy they stay there, I’m glad to have them.

    I bet there’s lots of folk-medicine remedies like this. Pennyroyal planted around your building will repel fleas. How about that!

  9. Pingback: lies my chinese mother told me « delicious juice dot com: unapologetically inappropriate

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