Cubans are superstitious people. This must be more of a cultural phenomenon. Because my mom is a devout Christian. Until something comes up involving numbers. I’m willing to bet most Cuban-Americans know this in some form or other.
I don’t think I dwell too much on it. But every now and then I have a conversation with my mom who pulls out a "number" that represents just about anything. It is called "La Charada China." There is a sizable Chinese population in Cuba – who knew? They began emigrating in about 1847. If you’ve ever had Cuban-Chinese food, you know it’s a killer combination. They also brought with them this system of categorizing animals and events into the Charada. But, I digress.
Back to my family and the number thing.
I remember when my parents first moved into this area. The first thing my dad would tell anyone was that the first 3 numbers of his new phone were 888. "corpse. corpse. corpse."
The number thing, I think, is more cultural than anything. Back in Cuba in the old days, you could choose a lottery ticket based on the numbers. And if you had just seen some nuns on the way over to the ticket sellers, you would certainly want to be playing the number 5 for "nuns."
It all seems so random to me, but it’s a great place to start… if you’re looking for a comedy routine. I offer my mom a piece of fruit – "banana is 87."
I mention something about our Italian neighbors. She wants to know how it is that I know they are Italian. I explain that he flies an Italian flag in his backyard. "77 is Italian Flag," she says immediately.
One of our cats plops down on her lap. "20 – Gato Fino," she declares knowingly. Our lights burned out. "53." She does this so consistently that I have started paying attention. It was the Italian flag that put me over the edge.
So, what does my day look like?
I have to go pick up Nat at the train "79." The kids have musical rehearsal at the theater "81."
I’m scheduled to take photos, "58." But you know, I’m starting to feel a little crazy, "59."
She remembers addresses that way. Somehow the numbers in our address involve a a Butterfly, a Sailor, and a Turtle. Doesn’t that sound like a bad joke?? I swear I can’t make this stuff up!
Maybe I should just stay in bed, "57."
"Luza is coming for the weekend, kids! Hide the numbers!!"
Footnote (added 11/16/06) – Apologies to my non-Cuban readers for the content of this post. This is just one of those "you-had-to-be-raised-with-this-stuff-to-get-it" things. For my Cuban American readers, you can get a poster of the Charada here. =D