Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year's Superstition

“Look what I found,” Mr. Wonderful said dropping a small plastic statue in my lap as I knelt in a mound of earth.  We’d spent two days digging out the prickly, ragged, 50 year-old holly bushes from the front yard and now on a sunny day in late December, we were replanting the bed in a dozen lavender bushes. 

The statue, just three inches tall, depicted a man in robes holding a jug in his right hand and a tool in his left.  “It’s St. Joseph,” I said.  “Jesus’ step-father.”

Growing up Catholic in the Midwest the gardens of my mother, grandmother and their friends all contained saint statues.  St. Francis for the animals, the Blessed Virgin Mary for suffering mothers with teenage daughters and Jesus for everything, especially suffering mothers with teenage daughters.  The only saint statue not visible in a Catholic woman’s garden was St. Joseph because he was buried in it.

A carpenter by trade, St. Joseph was said to protect homes (not just the wooden ones) and their inhabitants.  If a resident sank a St. Joe statue outside the house he’d provide them protection and luck as long as they lived in it.

This tiny statue had been in the garden when we bought the house, moved into it and for the past few months had lived in it.  And up ‘til now we’d been safe and happy.  The statue wasn’t hurting anything and—just maybe—was protecting us. 

“Bury him again,” I said handing St. Joseph to Mr. Wonderful.
“You’re superstitious,” Mr. Wonderful said raising an eyebrow.
“Am not,” I said, Catholic guilt washing over me. 
“Gardens are for plants,” he said decisively and tossed the saint into a bucket of rocks.

Then it started.  The next day I couldn’t find my keys (the only set!) to the laundry room.  Then my beloved Steel Casey desk chair broke.  On New Year’s Day, the harbinger of what’s to come for the next 12 months, I walked out the front door and stepped into a pile of cat vomit.  Not my pet’s vomit but the sickly pink and yellow chunks of a feral cat I didn’t know. 

“Where is he?” I asked, my voice cracking with fear.  “Where’s St. Joseph?” 
“I thought you weren’t superstitious—”
“I’m not.  I’m just tired of my life falling apart!”

Rushing out to the garage I dumped out the green garbage bin and at the bottom found his white plastic form.

Beside a blooming lavender plant in the front yard I dug a hole and placed St. Joseph in it, carefully covering his pristine whiteness with fresh dark soil.  I even watered the spot so he could put down roots.

That evening dressing for a sushi dinner with friends, I slipped on a black blazer and in the left pocket my hand curled around the cold metal of the laundry room keys.  The next day, I schlepped my broken writing chair to Rose Upholstery in Hollywood, where they reaffixed the chair to its base and recovered it in a beautiful light cream vinyl making it look better than it had before the break.  Then arriving home from work I noticed dozens of feral cat footprints among our newly planted lavenders.  But no poop or vomit. 

Now St. Joseph’s roots to our house and my roots to the house were intertwined.  Thankfully, our home and garden were once again under his protection.  I breathed a sigh of relief.
If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try living without him yourself.