It was day #4,004 of my running streak, and I clumsily tripped over a crack in the sidewalk. I feel lucky that that my fall only resulted in a skinned-up knee when it could have been much worse. The uneven, ancient sidewalks in our new neighborhood are a concern, so I’m always on high-alert. I had enough time to brace the fall with my hands, look around in embarrassment to make sure no one was watching, and then continue running like nothing happened with blood slowly trickling down my leg. It made me feel like a true road warrior, and since I always run in shorts, my exposed legs were numb from the cold. I’m sure I’ll feel it tomorrow. Incidents like this always make me appreciate how fortunate I have been to not suffer a serious injury that might force me to discontinue “The Streak.”

As I limped along, I could not help but think back to childhood and the old saying, “step on a crack and break your mother’s back.” I was curious where that silly rhyme originated and was shocked by the answer, as explained through the website Quora

“This superstition originated back in the late 19th and early 20th century, unfortunately when racism was prevalent in society. The original unkind verse is believed to be either “Step on a crack and your mother’s baby will be black” or “Step on a crack and your mother will turn black.” Due to the fact that inter-racial marriages were frowned upon by some, it was also common then to say that stepping on the pavement lines meant you would marry a black person and have a black baby.”

“In the mid-20th century, it was common to tell children that if they stepped on any cracks in the pavement they would be eaten for lunch by bears waiting for them around the corner.”

“Another belief surrounding this superstition is that the number of cracks stepped on indicates the number of bones your mother would break. Also, it foretold the amount of china dishes that you would break.”

“There is also a belief that the cracks in the ground or pavement led directly to the underworld. Thus by stepping on them, the evil demons that dwell there would be released and bring bad luck.”

Too many times these seemly harmless childish rhymes turn out to be ugly references to the ills of society. It was like finding out that “Ring around the Rosie” is all about the plague.” I have a bit of a “rosie” or raspberry on my knee, and was just lucky that I didn’t break any bones of my own in the fall. I’ll have to more carefully watch my step at a time in life when any stumble can be disastrous. It also might be a good day for a calcium-rich glass of milk to protect my aging, brittle bones. Cheers!