Yesterday I was helping a mom from Pakistan. As she tried to settle her fussy baby, I asked her if he was fussy because he was teething. He’s at the right age and normally he’s pleasant and always ready with a gummy grin. Before she could answer I was making faces at the baby, trying to get him to show me whether he was cutting a tooth. So focused on seeing a tooth, I didn’t notice the horror on her face. Trying to remain polite, she hastily covered the baby with a blanket and left, murmuring that Pakistani people think that looking for a new tooth is wrong. They believe that this will bring hardship to the child.
This led to a discussion during English class about superstitions. Retelling the story about the mom and baby, the class launched into a discussion about things they were taught about pregnancy:
Only the student from Vietnam said she craved sweet foods for her son and sour food for her daughter. I remember craving Big Macs when I was carrying The Daughter and Apple Dumplings when I was carrying The Boy.
Next we discussed the body:
It is amazing to see how many of these superstitions intersect with things I heard growing up. I know my grandmother used to rattle off a bunch of superstitions as warnings, but I pooh-poohed these little nuggets. I do use the burning ears expression a lot. I will pay closer attention to my eyes twitching, especially the left eye. I could use a few extra dollars!
We talked about colors next. I confess: I have NO clue what the colors of the American flag symbolize. Ugh – bad Civics teacher! I promised the class I would have that information the next time we met. The student from Ethiopia proudly pointed to the flag she had given me as a gift and explained the meaning behind each color. This led to a robust discussion about flag colors than colors in general. The students from China confirmed that the color white is not pure like here in the States, but a color of death. I remember way back in high school the anger of the Chinese families that we graduated in white dresses.
Finally, everyone got a chuckle at the sayings about women and men:
When God created man, she was only joking!
However, the end of class was really touching. Despite language and culture differences, the power of women working WITH a man is universal.
Readers: help me out! What do the colors of the United States flag mean? What superstitions do you recall? Which ones do you still quote?