Chacos column: What is your talisman
Enjoy the Ride
People love to announce they have been blessed with either good luck or bad luck. They can cite endless references supporting their belief and nothing to the contrary could ever sway their opinion. I totally get it, because for years, I believed I had some pretty good luck on my side.
My good fortune started in the sixth grade. First, I won the massive, ornate gingerbread house in a school raffle. I beat out a boy named David who bought about 25 tickets to my one. After my name was announced over the school loudspeaker, I sauntered down the long, linoleum hallway as if winning some beauty pageant, so very proud to claim my confection. David, on the other hand, fumed for weeks.
A month later it was my turn in class to guess the final score of the upcoming NFL football game our teacher was obsessed with, I think it was the Rams. When I entered school Monday morning the teachers were all clapping and congratulating me. Apparently, no one had ever called the exact score until me, although I have to give some credit to a football fanatic named Ari who was my seatmate at the time. Winning a few pencils and a McDonald’s coupon book, however, sealed the deal for me. Forevermore, I considered myself a lucky kid.
By coincidence or not, this is about the time when my grandmother insisted my brother and I carry around a gross rabbit’s foot keychain. She also made my mother keep three elephant figurines on a shelf near our doorway claiming it represented longevity and luck. Mostly, I remember the evil eye necklace she clasped around my neck as a teen, saying in her soft, sincere, but forceful Hungarian accent, that eyes are the window to the soul. This necklace was to become my protective shield warding off negative thoughts from others, even though I didn’t really understand her mystical interpretations at the time. For my grandmother, all you needed to bring about good fortune was to have an amulet, talisman or other type of charm by your side.
But I also grew up with a heavy dose of the more literal, direct meaning of things, too. Upon seeing a rainbow, I would be given a science lecture on light refraction and water. When I asked to drive to find the leprechaun’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, my father gave me a sideways look and continued driving home muttering something like facts are real.
So, I completely understand that one could say good luck is simply preparation meeting opportunity. There’s plenty of psychology to back it up, too. There’s many ways to credit how we develop self-assurance or go about inspiring confidence in others. And the fear of failure is potent, especially in the eyes of those you love.
But it’s simply more fun to share an anecdote supporting the power of positive thinking, though. For example, I once found a four-leaf clover on the field while playing in a soccer game and then scored a goal. Explain it seven ways to Sunday, but in this instance, I’m just more partial to the more esoteric interpretation of good luck charms.
Nowadays I teach my kids to make a wish upon a shooting star, when they find a stray eyelash or when they come upon a ladybug. Recently, my mom gave each grandchild a Native American dream catcher with instructions to keep it above their bed to catch the negative images that may creep into their dreams. I say to my children that these customs are just ways to focus inner thoughts in the direction you seek. Eventually, the intentions you seek may one day become a reality.
However, my favorite talisman is the red bracelet I give to my loved ones to wear on their left wrist. This folk custom, made popular by Kabbalistic interpretations of the Torah, is knotted seven times on the “receiving side” of their body to offer protection and inspire confidence. Sometimes I take it a step further and tell my kids that their duty is to ward off misfortune by defending and protecting those who need it most, like when they see stuff go down on the school bus or playground.
So, go ahead and rub the Buddha’s belly the next time you walk by that store on Main Street and smile when you see the horseshoe nailed above a door facing up, of course. And remember, when you just feel like luck isn’t on your side, sometimes it’s just how you choose to interpret it.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.