I don’t believe in superstition. If you step on a crack, you’re not likely to break my mother’s back. Black cats aren’t unlucky unless you’re Jen Tucker. If you are Jen Tucker, you’re the proud owner of an EpiPen® due to feline allergies so severe that when a stray cat hair lands on your eyeball, your throat closes. That’s lots of fun…if you’re me. That has nothing to do with being unlucky, and everything to do with being dealt faulty DNA at birth. My friends, Friday the Thirteenth is here and although I scoff at one day being deemed unlucky, boy did the thirteenth hit my family like a deer in the headlights.
Last night, Wil, my soon-to-be high school graduate, realized when he awoke in the morning, it would be to a momentous don’t walk under a ladder kind of day. “What’s the big deal with Friday the Thirteenth? Is it bad luck just to be alive?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Gracie, my blonde, pixie-esque, eight-year-old added. “Should we all just call it a day and cancel our lives?”
“Beware you two. There’s a storm coming and it’s got bad luck written all over it,” Ryan, my middle child added.
I rolled my eyes. “Friday the Thirteenth is a bunch of hooey!”
Yes, I embody my grandmother in vocabulary. I also say “Dangnabbit!” and “Oh Crumb!” when angry.
I continued. “There’s no such thing as bad luck, superstition, or any of that stuff that makes you worry your day is going to head south. So don’t give it another thought.”
Oh the things you’ll say when Friday the Thirteenth is only a day away and you have yet to toss salt over your shoulder keeping the bad stuff at bay. Does it matter which shoulder you heave salt over? The left or right one? Do you pour the granules into your hand then toss or can you just let ‘er rip from the salt shaker? Anyway…
“Mom, you forgot to wake us all up playing that Friday, it’s Friday song!” Gracie chided. She was zipping up her boots while I grabbed my swim bag. I was in trouble for not playing Rebecca Black’s Friday anthem for her. I’m not kidding. You just read that little tidbit.
“Well, there’s always next Friday, you lucky duck,” I reminded her.
We hopped into our Mini Cooper and I put the car in reverse.
“Mom!” Gracie shrieked. “You didn’t put my water bottle in my backpack!”
I put the Coop in park. “Gracie, can’t you just use the one in your lunchbox today? Do you really need two water bottles?”
“You don’t understand. I can’t use that water bottle for my desk if it’s the one for my lunchbox. That’s the rule.”
Far be it from me to encourage rule breaking, said no Jen Tucker ever. My daughter may not be privy to that side of me just yet.
After a quick retrieval of the one and only water bottle that can have access to the classroom because the other is obviously only for meals (who knew?), Gracie and I were on our merry way. After dropping her off, I was heading to my local YWCA to swim laps. I hear I’m nicer on Monday, Wednesday and Friday after I glide through the water. It’s a public service for you all, right?
After a quick inventory of oncoming traffic, I thought I had plenty of time to turn left. Yet there was that one car. You know the one. Is it going faster than you think? Is it slower? What the heck are you doing, car? So you wait, and wait, and wait. You realize you could’ve taken that left turn safely while multiple cars whiz by and you sulk just a little.
I must’ve sighed not only in my head, but aloud too. “Mom, are you mad you have to take me to school and there’s traffic? Are you going to be late for swimming?”
I smiled and patted Gracie’s leg. “This just means I get to spend a few extra minutes with you, baby cakes.”
The seas parted, and the road was clear. As I turned left I said, “Better safe than sorry, right?”
“Right!” Gracie confirmed.
And that’s when it happened.
A deer dashed across the road narrowly missing the car driving the opposite way. Millimeters of space between the car and runner would not be an exaggeration. Living in Indiana, you learn quickly when one white tailed creature appears, multiples are on their six.
I began to brake. “Mommy, what was that in the road?” Gracie asked.
“It was a …” I didn’t have an opportunity to finish my sentence. Out of the corner of my eye, heading towards my daughter’s side of the car at lightning speed, the rest of the posse approached.
I slammed the brakes.
The creature’s force upon impact with my little puddle jumper took my breath away. I held tightly to the wheel defensively, bracing for collision.
“Mommy, what just happened? What just happened?!” Gracie yelled reaching for me. Her little heart was jumping from her chest in cadence with mine.
I pulled over to the side of the road. Holding Gracie for a moment, I then pulled her from me to inspect her little body for bumps or bruises. “We’re okay, Gracie. We’re okay, honey,” I soothed.
We were okay. My car, not so much. Yet it’s just a car. It can be replaced after I sell a kidney to afford the bill (Anyone in the market?). And as we humorists do, I quickly turned to silly commentary to get me through this crazy event.
“Do you think he did it on purpose? Did he leave a note? Did they all dare each other to see who could make it across in one piece?” I asked my friends.
“If the deer survived, do I have to pay for a hip replacement? Can I take him to small claims court?” I laughed shrugging off the incident.
If I’m honest with myself, I was masking my anxiety over what could’ve happened. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause about 200 fatalities each year.
That statistic could’ve been Gracie.
It could’ve been me.
On Friday the Thirteenth no less.
Yet it wasn’t.
I don’t live my life asking What if? when situations occur, yet I did this morning. What if I hadn’t forgotten the water bottle when I loaded Gracie’s backpack? What if I would’ve pulled into traffic when I had the opportunity earlier? Five seconds later? It’s absolutely normal to run through the events and backtrack in your mind. It doesn’t mean I’m unlucky on the mother of all mother days for such things. It means I’m counting my blessings, thanking our guardian angels and cracking jokes while holding those I love a little tighter. And no, I didn’t throw salt over my shoulder when I arrived home in one piece. Yet if you want to send me a rabbit’s foot, I wouldn’t shy away from the gift.