R E F L E C T I O N 

Who stepped on a crack?!!

"Step on a crack, break your mother's back." 

My mother has a broken back. Her L1 vertebrae is cracked straight through resulting in 2 months of agony. So I ask? Who stepped on a crack?! I am one of 4 children, so someone is responsible!

I used to mumble this phrase to myself as my skinny legs jumped and skipped along the concrete boundaries of my youth. It was a fun little game tinged with fear. If I CHOSE to step on a crack, harnessing my free will, would it really have the power to hurt my mother — the person on whom my very existence relied? Heavy thoughts for a 5 year old. Yes, even then, I struggled with adult-sized neurosis.

The internet will tell you that this phrase dates back to the 19th century. Some say its origins are steeped in racism and that the line "break your mother's back" used to be "turn your mother black". I was sad to read that. Another thought was that is was from a poem by A.A. Milne called "Lines and Squares" in which a step on a crack resulted in being eaten by a bear. Other's say that cracks represent a portal where one could fall into the netherworld.

At some point it all morphed into a children's game.

But in the world of adulthood, a mother with a broken back is far from a game. It means hours spent in the hospital watching my mom endure pain that takes her breath away. If only a carefully navigated walk down the sidewalk could heal her, life would feel magical again, but I've outgrown magic. We have slipped down one of those dark cracks and are left wondering when we will see the light again.