If this were a totally rational world, we would have collectively packed off all beliefs in superstitions and omens to some kind of metaphorical landfill. That said, 2020 has provided proof positive that we’re not living in a rational world, so I feel justified in hanging on to the ones that were taught at my mother’s knee.
Mother was a wood-knocking, salt-over-the-shoulder kind of gal. Talking about one’s plans too confidently would jinx them, in her estimation, and any boast about what we would do next year or next Christmas and so forth would inevitably bring forth an admonition that “we could all be dead by then.” It wasn’t that she didn’t count her chickens before they hatched, Mother didn’t even count the eggs.
Her cars always had a rabbit’s foot hanging from one knob or the other, and black eyed peas were always eaten on New Year’s Day. Had she lived to 2020, I can only imagine her going into 2021 fortified by adopting every superstition out there to ward off another year like the one we’ve just had. After all, she would be the first to say, “It can’t hurt.”
I must confess that I’ve been concerned about a couple of things that have happened in my world that look like omens to me. Being old school, we still hang a wall calendar in the kitchen to record reminders for doctor’s appointments and when it’s time to take Eddie to the vet.
Over the years, all kinds of themes have shown up on these calendars, but I’ve settled on Renoir for the last few years. This year, I ordered one with each month offering a still life of various flowers in vases. So one can imagine my surprise when the calendar that arrived was an ode to Grey’s Anatomy. If it had been a calendar of illustrations from the actual Gray’s Anatomy, including bones and skulls, I might have gone with it for an ironic touch of goth.
Reaching the company meant leaving a message for them to call me back, so that led to a three day beatdown of phone tag. When we finally connected, I got a less than effusive apology and the news that the calendar I ordered was out of stock. So I selected a different Renoir wall calendar, which includes his Two Sisters (On the Terrace), a former favorite of mine until it was reported some years ago that Trump claims to own the original. It actually has belonged to the Art Institute of Chicago since 1933, but this unfortunate association means I’ll temporarily hang the Grey’s Anatomy calendar for the month of November 2021.
Last month, I spoke of an annual indulgence for a particular robin’s egg blue leather calendar for my personal use. Who knew this would become the source of another omen? I’ve ordered from this company for many years and always received an email sometime in November to order with free shipping or 10% off, or something like that. But not this year.
It was coincidentally writing about the robin’s egg blue calendar that reminded me I needed to order one for 2021. Guess what? Not available in the style I prefer. I sent an email to Customer Service saying that I couldn’t find the one I usually order on the website. The next day I received a terse response—“If it’s not on the website that means it’s out of stock.” Well, thanks for nothin’, as Roxie Hart once said to Velma Kelly.
After consideration of my options, I decided to order my 2022 calendar at the same time reservations are made for Christmas brunch at the Zodiac. (I’m thinking Memorial Day.) And I bit the bullet and selected taupe for the 2021 calendar. Taupe offers classic good taste, if a bit dull, but I just didn’t think a vibrant red would set the proper tone for the upcoming year. That would imply too much expectation, which Mother no doubt would eschew.
The inferences from these two experiences seem obvious. First, what I wanted for 2021 isn’t what I got. But then, while the taupe isn’t what I wanted either, I had the robin’s egg blue for 2020, and look what that got me.
When it comes to going into 2021, I think we’re going to open the windows and the doors to get 2020 out of the house, eat our black eyed peas, and stand on our right foot like a flamingo as the clock strikes midnight.
But I’m seriously thinking about foregoing the champagne this year. That wasn’t my libation of choice in 2020, and I believe you dance with who brung ya. So stand back, Mr. Clicquot, and let Mr. Goose through. Grey and I are going to turn up the volume on some western swing and a little hip hop, and we’re going to turn this mutha out.