Actress Mila Kunis and her former "That 70s Show" co-star Ashton Kutcher recently became the parents of a baby girl, Wyatt Isabelle.
Because Mila and I come from identical backgrounds — both born Jewish in the Soviet republic of Ukraine, immigrating to America with our respective families at age 7 — I imagine that her family may follow some of the same traditions as mine do.
These superstitions may seem strange to the general American public, but for Jewish grandparents from the former Soviet Union, protecting a baby from the Evil Eye is as crucial as buckling her properly into a car seat.
I speculate that, while Mila was in labor, her parents opened all the cabinets and drawers in their house to help her progress. (Think about it….)
Then, once they brought the baby home, they tied a red string around her crib to keep the Evil Eye away.
Another technique my own mother taught me: whenever anyone compliments your baby, you stick your thumb in between your middle and fourth fingers. This is because those who say nice things about your child are actually jealous and sending bad vibes your way. The clever finger trick nullifies their power. (But put your hand in your pocket while you do it, so the other person doesn’t know you’re onto them.)
Alternatively, you can lick your baby’s face three times, then spit on the floor.
And don’t let anybody see your newborn for the first six weeks. Maybe that’s why, instead of releasing a photo of little Wyatt, Mila and Ashton posted several different pictures with the tagline, “Can you guess which one is ours, or does it really matter? All babies are cute.” They are diluting the Evil Eye’s power by spreading it across several innocent babies. And a few puppies.
Other things I envision being done to — or rather, the grandparents would say, for — Mila Kunis’s baby:
- Feeding her crusts of bread so her hair grows in curly, but never finishing any bread she leaves behind, lest her health be compromised
- Never stepping over the baby. This will cause her to stop growing.
- Dripping hot oil in her ear if she has an infection
- Smearing mustard on her chest (or spilling dry mustard in her socks) if she has a cough
- Putting her feet in near-boiling water to cure sniffles
- Not letting her sit at the edge of the table, as that means she’ll never get married (hmmm… Mila and Ashton aren’t married. Now we know why!)
- Checking the nape of her hair for clues as to what Ashton and Mila’s next baby will be. If it’s straight, it will be a boy. If it grows in a point, it will be a girl. (Celebrity prognosticators take note of this scientific method!)
Finally, I imagine her grandparents playing traditional baby games with her, like “Saroka Varona.” You hold out the baby’s palm and run your finger around it in circles while telling the story of a crow who had five chicks. She asks each one to help her with household tasks, like chopping wood, fetching water, etc… Four of the chicks help, the fifth one doesn’t. Meanwhile, the crow has been preparing porridge. When it’s time to eat, she gives some to the first baby (squeeze the thumb), she gives some to the second baby (squeeze the pointer finger), she gives some to the third (squeeze the middle finger), she gives some to the fourth (squeeze the index finger), but she gives none to the fifth (shake the pinkie back and forth).
Because it’s never too early to learn the Soviet dictum, “Those who don’t work, don’t eat.”
And those who don't follow tradition are just asking for trouble.
Alina Adams is the NYT best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, romance novels and figure skating mysteries. She is writing her next book live on the web with real-time feedback from readers.