Dropping Keys in a Puerto Rican Household



Growing up in a Puerto Rican household in the South Bronx wasn’t easy. There was crime, asthma and vacant lots all around us. The Bronx had burned at one point and it is still building up.  There were also superstitions for every type of occasion that one had to carefully monitor and adhere to. You had to be careful of the evil eye. I had to place an upside down broom by the door to “sweep” out unwanted guests. I couldn’t open the refrigerator door immediately after taking a shower.   I had to have red string lying around so that I could make hiccups go away. And so on.   Everything had a hidden, extra meaning. I mean everything.


I went away from home at an early age and started to lose those beliefs.  By losing those beliefs, I did not stay as connected to my mother as I had wished. I mean, I still believed back then, as a I do now, in cats being a bad omen. I still don’t walk under ladders and that is a feat in New York where every block has construction going on.  I still try to not leave any of my hair anywhere as that can give control of my being to others. However, my hair is long and curly, I leave my hair everywhere.  Which is why as a curly-haired girl I need drano as a constant tool at my house.  However, I did leave other beliefs behind. I open the fridge door right after showering. I come out thirsty due to the fact I love hot, hot showers. If I can’t get a cold glass of Coke Zero, I will faint.  Sorry mom.

I have learned, as a result, to cherry pick from my childhood, family superstitions.  Now, when I drop a spoon, I completely believe that a female is coming over. When a fork falls, a male is coming over.  A knife, means a fight. It all seems to in come respects make sense. Now, I never quite knew what it meant when a key fell. I assumed it meant something bad.  At best, it meant a generic visitor. At worst, it was that someone uninvited and unexpected was going to make their way in.   Now, the thing about many superstitions is that they often make sense of the madness of one’s context. In the South Bronx, keys falling to the ground could be a way for people to take preemptive measures to protect themselves.

Either way, dropping one’s keys seems to be considered an omen of bad luck across many cultures.   Today, I dropped my set of keys and it was the strangest afternoon.  Soon after I dropped my keys, a colleague dropped by my apartment.  Then when I walked that colleague back down to the lobby, I came back in and was offered the the apartment I had been waiting for. It unexpectedly came onto the market (4 months ahead of schedule).


I do not know if my mom would have “predicted” these events based on my keys falling.  Undoubtedly, she would have thereafter said that all this happened as a result of the keys falling.  She would have subsequently have been amused for hours and singing the praises of her folkloric beliefs. I sit here and smile. Perhaps she tapped me from up above and caused my keys to fall so that I could get that apartment. What we chose to believe can ease our pain.


4 replies »

  1. I, too, wrote about keys, this morning. I had no idea there were so many superstitions. You should publish all those. Refrigerators? Forks? All of them would be interesting


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