When I awoke this morning I remembered that it was on this date last year that my late husband and I said our last "rabbit" together when I refreshed his bedside ice water. By the first of June he was too weak and too disoriented to say "rabbit" for luck. And, of course, Ken's long run of luck had nearly run out.
As a young girl I'd read an English storybook where the heroine upon awakening said "rabbit" for good luck on the first day of each month. I later learned that this tradition was widespread throughout the British empire. I found women in both Belize and Seychelles who practiced it. I passed the habit along to both of my husbands and my son.
In 1967 I wrote a couple of paragraphs about my "Rabbit Habit" and the brief piece was published in Woman's Day in the old Neighbors column. It was my first sale to a national publication, one carried in thousands of supermarkets. My first husband secretly photocopied and framed my $25 acceptance check and wrapped it as a Christmas gift. That memento is in a file cabinet in my son's garage in Orange, CA, and the next time I visit I plan to dig it out.
After my anecdote was published, the Neighbors editor sent me a sheath of letters she had received in response. In those pre-email days, several folks invested stamps to recount the English origins of the story, or to share their delight in reading my contribution in the pages of their favorite publication. Others sent in bombasts seething with the style and substance of Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God:
"Don't believe in luck...everything is predestined by your Maker!"
"Knocking on wood and saying "rabbit" are invoking Satan!"
"Read the Bible, not English storybooks!"
Oh, well. The Lord indeed is my shepherd, but I do believe in luck, in English traditions, and on good days, in fairy tales. I always clap for Tinker Bell. Don't you?
I concur with Thomas Jefferson, my favorite founding father:
“I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
So today, the first of May, I said "rabbit" and asked for luck and opportunity to write about :
1. Ken's love of secret codes and cowboys.
2. A grandmotherly cat.
3. Forgiveness in absentia.
Then I opened my e-mail and found that three more of my stories either have been accepted or are being considered for inclusion in the new Dream of Things anthologies, and...a fan letter from a lady in South Africa who loved "Withstanding Winter's Woes," in Chicken Soup for the Soul's What I Learned from the Cat.
Now that's gotta be a lucky start to the merry month of May!
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