November the thirteenth is a special day to me, and though it does not fall on a Friday this year, I thought I would share my musings about this auspicious day and Friday the 13th in general. Someone I care about was born on Friday, November the 13th and because of this, I have never thought the day to be unlucky…though some certainly do!
Friday has been considered a doomed day since Chaucer wrote “The Canterbury Tales” in the 14th century. Friday has long been regarded as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. The number 13 is always thought of as extremely unlucky and almost every religion and culture regards it as an evil, sinister digit. For Christians, this is most likely because of its association with Judas Iscariot, the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. The superstition surrounding Friday 13th could also be linked to Norse mythology. According to legend, 12 gods were at a banquet at Valhalla when Loke, the demi-god of mischief who was not invited, turned up, bringing the total number of guests to 13. He was responsible for the chaos that led to the death of one of the other gods.
Friday the 13th facts:
- Just as many people are born on Friday the 13th as any other day, but there are slightly more people who die on Friday the 13th.
- It’s a good day to travel, as many people avoid this day.
- Friday 13th in August is considered unluckier than any other Friday 13th in Brazil, especially as agosto (August) rhymes with desgosto (sorrow).
People born on Friday the 13th must be born under an unlucky star–You’d think…
But several blessed celebrities cut into cake on this unholy of days: Mario Andretti, Kat Dennnings, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Feist, Margaret Thatcher, Kate Walsh, Darius Rucker, DiDi Conn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Buscemi, Max Weinberg, Christopher Plummer…did I miss anyone?
Oh, yeah…and my gran.I think of her fondly on November 13th; and, in fact, on every Friday the 13th.
She may have had pause to wonder if she was in fact born under an ‘unlucky star’ as she had quite the life of turmoil. Raised in wartime England with memories of diving behind a couch when bombs blasted the street outside, and sharing the affections of her mother with five other siblings, and some who didn’t make it. Her life was filled with death and loss. She later lost her husband at a young age, leaving her to raise two children on her own.
At 4′ 11″, she took up more space in a room than anyone else. Her presence was palpable. You had the feeling she knew what you were thinking at all times, so of course I always felt guilty about something when I was around her. She was a stalwart woman, not given over to emotion and superstition. She would have none of it. Many thought her cold and distant, but I think her hard-nosed attitude evolved over decades of hard work. She was practical, strong, and spoke her mind with a wit like a pistol butt to the back of the head.
She was not a woman of many words–I would never have called her chatty; so when she did speak, her words had weight. I remember her observations, not as criticisms, but just how she saw life. Open and honest, she was, with no time for dressing up her words.
Before my mom, dad, sister, brother and I moved to Canada when I was twelve, we lived in my gran’s house for a while. She was even more brusque and distant than usual, and I could tell it was because her heart was breaking. She was going to miss us, but she couldn’t tell us that. When it came close to the day we were to leave, she grabbed me as I passed her one day and hung onto me for a few gut-wrenching moments, her fingernails digging into my back. She did not know how to hug, but I felt more love from her in that moment than she’d ever shown me before. We did not speak.
Years later, just before she died, she made the long trip from England to Canada to visit me and her first great-grandchild. She was awkward holding my baby, but would watch her like a hawk, perhaps trying to see a resemblance in the tiny doll-like face. Gran softened around the baby and after the first few days she relaxed and started sharing more and more stories about her childhood and life, and eventually began discussing her inevitable death. I think she knew. Only a few weeks after returning to England, she had a stroke. She was found sitting in her armchair, a crossword on her knee and a cup of cold tea at her side. English to the end.
I picked up the phone on November the 13th of that year and dialed her number. The phone rang a few times before I slammed it down into the receiver, suddenly remembering she would not be on the other end to pick up.
I hope she is happy wherever she is, and looking down on us all with pride. She would be delighted to see her little great-grandaughter growing up into a strong woman, and her other descendants she never got to meet, unknowingly carrying around a little part of her within them.
Happy Birthday, Gran.
Friday the 13th falls next in February, 2015 for all you superstitious folk. What are your thoughts on whether or not it is an unlucky day?