I have sweet memories of my grandmother, but sometimes the most curious ones lie at the forefront. Nonna was a tad “scaramantica“, though she, as a devout Catholic, would never admit to it. When I asked her why she was superstitious, she told me, “Scaramantica, io? No, no, queste sono solo precauzioni.”
Yes, there were many “precautions” beyond the basic “don’t open an umbrella in the house” and “black-cats-equal-iella”. The bed was no place for hangars, loose change or hats. Flowers should be given in odd numbers. No more than two people should make the bed. A bride should not make her own bed the night before she gets married. Oh, and thirteen people at lunch or dinner is no good. Best to set the table for 14, you know, as a precaution. And please, we do not make a toast with water, and we do not cross over other people’s arms when toasting.
Travelling was dicey. I was not to travel on the 17th, which is a very unlucky number, but Nonna also informed me “Né di Venere né di Marte non si sposa né si parte, né si dà principio all’arte”, which means you don’t get married on Tuesdays or Fridays, you do not do important business on those days, and you certainly do not get in a car or a plane on Martedì or Venerdì either. When you do the math, I don’t know how she ever got anything done.
The best memory was when my grandmother strolled around my new house and surreptitiously put red ribbons on a few of my door handles. She said, “I will hide them in the back. They are small, you won’t even notice them”. Further investigation led me to discover that the red ribbons would keep away “gli invidiosi” (the envious). But, she said I wasn’t to worry . . . it was only a precaution.