From Halloween until after New Year’s Day, I am very careful. During this time, I’m a little fearful because of the superstitions I have been taught.

My mother taught me to always spit on the straw sweeper of a broom if it accidentally touched my body. When my 18-year-old grandson visited here this summer, he reminded me that he still spits on the broom. I had forgotten I had told him that. I told him that’s the right thing to do because I didn’t want him to go to jail.

“I have never been in jail,” I said. “If you continued to spit on the sweeper of the broom, you won’t go to jail either.”

It’s funny how superstitions have stuck with me, and I have passed them on to my children and grandchildren. I believe my parents and grandparents told superstitions to their children to frighten them into being good.

It worked on me. I am really scared. The one for when it rains on one side of the street, and the sun is shining on the other side is a great bother to me. This rare occurrence means the devil is beating his wife. It also implies there is a devil, and if he beats his wife, what on earth will he do to me?

Years ago, when I was a teenager, a cousin from Birmingham, Ala. visited me at my parents’ home. She saw me asleep with my hands clasped behind my head, and she related this superstition: Never sleep with your hands clasped behind your head because people who do will have insurmountable troubles in their lives. So far I have been able to deal with my problems successfully in life, maybe because when I am conscious of falling asleep with my hands clasped behind my head, I immediately take them down.

I’m happy to know that no ill will can befall me because I never open an umbrella inside the house, or if I knock over a saltshaker and spill salt, I take a pinch and throw it over my left shoulder. I am very much aware that if I drop a knife, a man comes to the front door; if a spoon, a woman; and if a fork, it’s trouble at the door.

On New Year’s Day, the first person to enter my house must be a man. It is said that if a woman is first to come into the house, there will be bad luck for the rest of the year. Also on New Year’s Day, I cook a traditionally superstitious meal that is supposed to bring good fortune during the year. The meal consists of cabbage or collard greens to symbolize money, bringing prosperity into my home. There will be some kind of pork meat, such as ham hocks, or salted pork, used to season the greens. Pork is preferred because pigs are known to get plenty to eat. So I will not go hungry during the year. There will also be black-eyed peas, which symbolize good luck. Of course there are other courses to the meal, some kind of a roast, chitterlings, several desserts and other goodies.

After Chrismas a few years ago, while gathering my shopping list for the New Year’s Day dinner, I found I didn’t have any black-eyed peas in my house. Right away I began a search to buy a pound of black-eyed peas. I could not find one bag of black-eyed peas anywhere I went on the West Side of Chicago. So I drove to the far South Side (the neighborhood I grew up in) and there I found a bag of black-eyed peas in a small grocery store not far from the house I used to live in.

I’m not superstitious-I just don’t believe in taking any chances.