birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Stepping On Cracks

My mother has been dead for 10 years now, but I still wince every time I break this one superstition-laced rule.

You know...the old saw: "Step on a crack, break your mama's back?" That one is engrained in my psyche and steps, not so much because my mother chastised me for it but because I never wanted to hurt my mom. Okay, maybe there were times I wanted to throttle her (especially when I was a teenager--and I am sure there were times she felt the same), but the idea of causing her physical pain, even inadvertently, was abhorrent to me.

The problem is, though, that avoiding cracks is a painstaking process if you walk anywhere. And what is a "crack" after all? A seam between two slabs of concrete sidewalk or a literal crack in the sidewalk? I'm not sure, so I find myself too often obsessing about this so that I tiptoe (I try to do so discreetly so that no one notices my mincing steps) along any pavement or sidewalk, head down to see where my feet are falling and measuring the cadence of my steps so that I always step across, not on, a sidewalk seam.

Is this normal? Probably not, and it does affect my ability to stride confidently into the day. Think of the things I miss seeing that are above ground level as I pick my way through this minefield of guilt! I do try to ignore and break this rule at times, and if I distract myself from my footfalls I can break it with relative ease. But let me notice one misstep onto a crack and I find myself sending quiet apologies to my mother, wherever she may be these days. And wherever that is, she'd probably laughing at the silliness of my rule-breaking ways and would no doubt tell me to throw that rule out the window. But maybe I keep it just to keep a connection with her?

Tough Luck

Rules Are Meant For Breaking