“Did Granny ever make you touch a dead person before?” I asked Mama the other day.
Mama thought a little too long about my question before she answered. “No,” she began. “Why?”
“She tried to get me to do it once.”
Mama sighed, a sigh of being appalled but not that surprised at the same time.
Granny was wrought with superstition.
“Reach in there and touch her,” was Granny’s order at the funeral home as we stood by the casket.
My great-grandmother — her mother-in-law — was who she was telling me to touch.
“Wha-?” I was young. Real young, so this was kind of a shocking directive to be given.
“Touch her, so you won’t have nightmares about her,” Granny persisted.
That may have been the first moment a curse word formed in my mouth, but I was wise enough not to utter it.
Was she crazy? Telling a small child to touch a dead person so they wouldn’t have nightmares was a surefire way for me to have nightmares. Or maybe she was thinking I would be so freaked out I wouldn’t be able to sleep for weeks on end, thusly avoiding any nightmares.
“Touch her,” Granny repeated, trying to push my tiny hand into the casket.
Thankfully, my Pop saw what she was doing and interceded, scooping me up in one arm. “Helen, quit trying to force her to touch a dead person. That’s going to warp her for life.”
I didn’t touch my great-grandmother, so I am not sure what ended up being to blame for my warpedness, but I was quite grateful my grandfather had come to my rescue.
I wondered if she had ever made him touch a dead person but didn’t want to ask.
I’m not a big fan of touching living people, so there was no way in H-E-double hockey sticks I was touching a dead one.
Granny’s little curiosities bubble up in ordinary moments from time to time, and I found myself going down a rabbit hole recently as I tried to find out more about why she said the things she did.
“Don’t let a rocking chair rock with no one in it,” she’d warn.
“Why?” I’d ask, ever curious.
“If it does, the devil’s rocking,” she stated.
I’m not sure how the old gal knew that, but I wasn’t one to question it. She seemed to be all in the know when it came to the devil, ghosts, and the like.
As I tried to find the source of her knowledge, I learned Granny wasn’t the only one to know about some of these things, making me wonder if she had been on to something after all.
Some of her cautionary tales were just common sense.
Don’t go in a cemetery at night. No worries there. I wasn’t exactly one to frequent them a whole bunch during the day.
She warned of singing at the table, saying it was bad luck but wouldn’t go further, and she told us not to whistle inside either for pretty much the same reason.
Opening an umbrella inside was a big no-no, too.
For someone who sewed for a living, she refused to sew the first stitch on Sunday, saying you’d take them out double in the great here after, nor would she sew anything if you were wearing it.
Any time a black cat crossed her path, she crossed her windshield seven times with her finger and told me to cross myself.
“I thought only Catholics did that?” I questioned.
“We gonna get all the Jesus we can get,” she said.
Those quirks didn’t really faze me. But some of the other things she came up with kind of spooked me.
“If you hear a baby crying outside, don’t go looking for it,” she instructed randomly out of the blue one day.
“But what if it’s has been abandoned?”
She’d shake her head. “Don’t you go out there, you hear me.”
I was confused by this. I thought the Redhead Prime, the woman who lived to do every maternal thing known to womankind, would kill for the chance to find some baby on the doorstep. We didn’t have a lot of babies left on doorsteps where I grew up, if any, but this fact was something she felt important enough to impress upon me for future knowledge.
“It may be some evil trickery — something trying to get you,” she said matter-of-factly. “Listen to me and don’t do it. And just keep your tail inside at night. Don’t go traipsing outside in the wilderness — there’s things that can get you.”
Evidently, she forgot who she was talking to. The only outdoor activity I have ever engaged in is walking from the door to the car to go to another indoor location.
Still, I was curious as to the why behind this.
“You don’t wanna know,” she said cryptically. “Listen, old gal, there’s wicked things out there. Mark my words. Wicked, evil things. So, you best just stay in, keep the doors locked, and maybe make sure you’ve got a Bible and shotgun close at all times.”
King James and a firearm would probably be a weird combo for anyone else but for my grandmother, it was actually quite normal. Both were usually within arm’s reach.
She patterned her life around those superstitions, feeling like they were some sort of protective amulet of sorts. They weren’t honored just on days like Halloween or New Year’s Day, another day rife with superstition; no, she followed these tenets daily.
As we head towards the night where the veil is considered the thinnest, I can’t help but wonder what highly regarded notion she could share.
Too bad she didn’t have an idea of how to ward off 2020.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.