“Benito Fernandez, known by all the Spaniards as Benito El Tuerto because he couldn’t see out of his left eye, lived just two houses away from our house on Ashton Lane. His wife, Cristina, was a short, heavy woman who spent most of her time sitting in a rocking chair and saying her rosary beads. She always had a small bag of asafetida on a string around her neck and did little of anything except keep her daughters, Juliana, Felipa and Marta busy with the cooking, washing, milling and other household work. She was very religious and sent her daughters to church regularly, while the padre would come to see her every Friday morning to give her communion.
“On St. Joseph’s Eve, she would never forget to perform the egg-in-a-glass ritual and would be the first one in the morning to hurry to the window to see what had taken place in the glass during the night. For this custom, a fresh-laid egg (it would have to be laid on the eve of the Saint’s Day) would be broken just before midnight into a glass filled three-fourths to the top with well-drawn water. Care was taken so that the yolk would not disintegrate. Then the glass would be placed on the sill of an open window.
“The next morning a ship in full sail might be formed in the glass, with the yolk forming the hull of the ship and the white of the egg making the sails. This would signify that some member of the family would be making a trip somewhere by ship. If instead of a ship, however, one saw a long, white candle with what looked like a flame on top (the white of the egg would form the taper and the yolk the flame), this would mean that some member of the family would die within the next twelve months.
“If on the morning after putting out the glass, Cristina let out an Hay, Dios mio! Ave Maria purisuma!, her husband and daughters would know she had seen the candle. On this particular morning, however, she exclaimed, Gracias a Dios! She had seen the ship.
“A few days later, she received a letter from her parents telling her they were going to sail from La Coruna within the next two weeks. This meant that they were on the high seas at the moment she had looked at the sailing ship on the window sill!
“When her husband, who was always telling her that she was too superstitious, came home from work, the egg was beginning to disintegrate in the water. She told him about it having been a ship and said that her parents were coming to Coe’s Run to live. He said, ‘I’ll have to see them before I believe there’s anything to this foolishness.’
“She decided to make a believer of him. Instead of showing him the letter from her parents, she brought forth a calendar and said, ‘They will arrive in Clarkston on either this day, this day or this day. Mind what I tell you. If they do come within the days I point out, will you then believe in what you call superstition?’
“‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘If that happens, you’ll have made a believer of me.’
“And sure enough, on the first day she had pointed out on the calendar, a telegram came from New York City. It had been sent by Valentin Aguirre and said the Senor and Senora Ovies would arrive by train at five p.m. on the B&O train from New York City.
Que te parece! Benito exclaimed after hearing the telegram read to him. Now I believe in the egg!
“The egg in the glass had long been a Spanish custom. According to the local Italians, it was also a custom in Italy. Although the Italians enacted the custom on St. John’s Eve, it was done in the same manner and had the same significance.”
Pinnick Kinnick Hill, an American Story
by Gavin W Gonzalez (b 1909),
WV Univ Press, 2003
Spanish (Asturia) immigrant