Y’all, it’s New Year’s—again. I’m not sure how it keeps sneaking up on me. Seems like I just got around to putting the right year on my checks and now I’m gonna spend the next four months asking “What year is it again?” I suppose I’m not alone. So many of you must be going through the same thing, feeling as if the months and years are passing like green grass through a goose. I’d like to slow it down, but I figure I’d have more luck arguing with a fencepost than I would with Father Time. And no sense wasting what little I do have.
So I jump into the New Year the best way I know how: I watch my step. Literally. Remember that little rhyme we used to say growing up? Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back. I took that to heart. I nearly got into it with a boy when he nudged me onto one of those cracks in the sidewalk. I ran home, holding back my tears, thinkin’ I’d gone and hurt my momma. She was fine, of course, but I don’t mess with superstitions—especially at the New Year when these things can set the tone for the next twelve months. I’m not all hoodoo-voodoo, but I figure there are so few things we can control in this world that I’m going to do what I can to keep good fortune shinning down on me. And if that means nearly stumblin’ to avoid a little crack, well, that’s a small price to pay.
My grandfather Paul is responsible for filling my head with all these notions. He was the most superstitious man I’d ever met. He wouldn’t walk under a ladder even if he had to walk five miles to go around it. And opening an umbrella in his house was a surefire way to guarantee you’d leave with a shoe print on your backside.
Growing up, I had a hard time keeping up with all of his superstitions. Some were downright strange, like believing it was bad luck to take the trash out after dark. And I had an even harder time accepting some them. As much as I wanted a pet goldfish, my grandfather Paul would hear nothing of it. When I asked why, he’d say, “They’re bad luck,” as if it that somehow settled it.
I don’t ever want my superstitions to put people out, but my guests on New Year’s Eve have to do a couple of things to keep me happy. Like it or not, they have to have hog jowls for good health and at least one bite of turnip greens. See, that little taste of green guarantees financial success for the next year. I always serve ‘em with heaping scoop of Hoppin’ John, a delicious mix of rice and black-eyed peas for good luck. Even if my guests don’t buy into all this hooey, they can still indulge me—and their bellies with all this comfort food. After all, it’s for their own good.
There are certainly worse things than wishing your friends and family a healthy and happy New Year, even if you go about it in a funny way. I suppose that’s what I should keep in mind when I think back on my grandfather Paul. He didn’t give a plugged nickel about goldfish, y’all. Not really. He wanted the same thing I want for all of my friends and family: the very best.