It’s Friday the 13th and the media has us whipped up into a frenzy of superstition but what does it mean
The fear of Friday the 13th is also called friggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia. Now say that 10 times really fast! Friggatriskaidekaphobia comes from Frigg, the Norse goddess of wisdom after whom Friday is named, and the Greek words triskaideka, meaning 13, and phobia, meaning fear. (Google)
I can’t even pronounce those words so maybe I need to be fearful of what this post is going to turn out like too. I have never really been superstitious it’s never bothered me walking under ladders, I don’t generally throw salt over my shoulder or avoid black cats, but I can remember being a scaredy cat about Friday the 13th when I was attending Primary School. The older children would taunt us with tales of the world coming to an end, which usually meant a week of little sleep for me, a lot of staring up at the sky waiting for the “Wrath of God” to unfold or more likely the USSR as it was then to unleash the nuclear holocaust.
On a more personal level my relationship with Friday the 13th changed forever in September 1996. I had gotten married that April and I was living on a lovely Cherry Blossom lined Cul-de-Sac in north London. It really was a good time in my life I had my own car and a job that I enjoyed as a production manager working right beside Wembley Stadium, we had a great circle of friends and a lively social life, things were finally coming together and I thought that problems from the past had been put to rest now that my life was “sorted”.
That Friday evening I was due to go out with my Husband and some friends, I remember I had cooked a Lasange and I was taking a bath about 7pm when I heard the phone ring, I couldn’t hear who my husband was speaking to but soon after the side door went and I wondered where is he gone to. I got dressed a long black dress casual, as my jeans weren’t quiet as comfortable now I was developing a baby bump another reason for me to look forward to the future, I was however in a bubble of happiness that was about to explode on that Friday 13th from that one phone call that would change my life forever.
When I emerged from the bedroom my husband was back and very strangely he had my friend Helen with him ” I said Oh hello why are you here? and where did you disappear off to?” not putting the two things together in my mind. They both told me to sit down on the lovely flowery sofa facing our garden, I loved that room but in that instant it felt like a vacuum had sucked all the air out of it as it dawned on me, my husband had gone to get Helen because of that phone call. ” It’s Carmel she said something has happened” She’s dead isn’t she I cried, yes said Helen she is.
I couldn’t take it in my older sister whom I had spoken to only two nights before – I had broken the news of the new arrival that was to come she dropped the phone and ran around the house inside and out shouting Kay’s Pregnant to the rest of the family, she even spoke about moving back to London and I had offered to have her stay till she got sorted. But somehow deep inside I knew what had happened I asked Helen and my husband “did she kill herself? they both looked away not able to make eye contact How I asked, How did she do? it but they didn’t have the words to explain it to me so I found out later, when I rang home, the sketchy details of the despair of my father finding her and trying desperately to lift her up so she wouldn’t be suspended there in the darkness of the stables. Hoping somehow he wasn’t too late but of course it wasn’t to be.
It never occurred to me that Friday the 13th had anything to do with my sister’s death and I am pretty sure it never occurred to her either it was just coincidence, it never mattered what day it fell on the pain was in the fact she was gone and I would never get to spend a second with her again in my lifetime. People would say to me afterwards oh you will have a girl now,as if it would somehow fill the hole that had been left, my daughter did arrive the following April and she brought us great joy, it distracted us that first year but her arrival did not cancel out the loss, nor did the loss cancel out the joy of her arrival. Two years later in the last summer of the century we had another little girl and this time I felt more ready to mark my good memories of my sister, so she was given Carmel as her middle name.
In 2004 I was again pregnant and due on the 1st of January, but this baby was a bit more stubborn and did not want to make an appearance. After twelve long days each feeling like a week at that stage I knew something was definitely happening and we made our way to the hospital confident it wouldn’t be long, the girls stayed at home hyper with excitement about the prospect of the new arrival, I hadn’t had an epidural for the other births but for some reason I wanted one badly this time the nurse fitted a cannula to the back of my hand and I went to walk the corridors but nothing was happening I worried I would be sent home again and the pain from the cannula was worse than the mild contractions, so I asked the nurse to remove it, she was not impressed you know they won’t put it back in and you can’t have epidural if I take it out ” I don’t care that thing is causing me more pain than any contraction I shouted back” so out it came, things progressed slowly and I dozed off when I woke the pains were more intense and I asked my husband what time was it. It’s after midnight he replied, much to my horror,” God no, I said the baby is going to be born on Friday the 13th and there will be something wrong I know there will”, it was like all the bad that had happened so far was raining down on me again and now my happiness was about to be snatched away, but my little boy was born fit and healthy at 3am, prehaps Carmel was watching over us that night. It wasn’t until six months later when an itch appeared in the middle of my back that things took a turn on to a road that I am still travelling with Melanoma. I don’t remember what date that was but the day they told me it was Cancer was the 14th October another date I will never forget, and another day Helen came to rescue me, this time from the hospital with my little man in his buggy beside me.
So I would say to you walk under ladders today, throw salt, don’t shout at single magpies, look black cats in the eye, because good and bad can come on any day of the year, we are today celebrating my sons 13th birthday on Friday the 13th and touchwood (lol) when I take him Ice skating all will be fine, or just coincidence if its not, afterall 13 it is just a number like all the others but a very special occasion……….