Oh boy, school is coming up fast and I am wondering what Ma will come up with to keep the sickness and germs away. Ever since I can remember, she has all these home treatments for what ails us or for what might ail us.
Last spring, she lined us up in front of the kitchen cupboard and said she had some pills. Tink was first, Rex second and I was last. She said Curt was too small to swallow the pills. Tink and Rex got theirs and without a sound moved on. It would have been nice if Rex had warned me. Ma had this little white packet and out of it came the biggest pill I had ever seen in my entire life. Bright purple and huge. What’s it for, Ma? So you won’t have worms. I don’t have worms. This will keep you from having worms. And so it went for quite a few minutes until I opened my mouth for one short sentence and she dropped in the pill. There was no way that pill was going down my throat. She handed me water. I choked. She handed me more water. I kept choking. There was a ring of purple forming around my mouth but the pill just would not go down. Spit it out , she commanded and handed me a tissue. I spit it out. At this point, any mother in the world would have cast her child to the lions. Ma just looked at me and pointed a finger right under my nose..yes, under my nose..then I knew she was making a point and I had better listen. You, young lady, will be the only one who will have worms. Well when she says, young lady, I just know I am in for a world of hurt. No first name, middle name, last name calling, but always young lady.
The next day, I peeked out the window and there was Ma, taking some bark off a poplar tree or as pronounced here in Maine…”popple” tree. I wondered why she was doing that because she has told us never to take bark off any tree. She came into the house, grabbed a saucepan, tossed in the bark and a couple cups of water. I didn’t say anything because I knew she was in no mood for conversation with her lips set in a fine line, determined to accomplish some mission. About an hour later, I found out her mission and that the subject was me. I was summoned to the kitchen cupboard and there Ma stood with a spoon in her hand and a bowl in the other. Open wide, she commanded. Well, this young lady opened her mouth and got the most foul tasting liquid ever to ingest. What is that for, Ma? Remember the purple pill you couldn’t swallow? Yes. Did you have any problem swallowing that? No. Good, and you won’t get worms either. Short and to the point. Ma was part Native American and popple bark tea was a natural medicine to keep worms away. That was the spring tonic.
Dad wasn’t much help at times. When we all had chicken pox, Rex and I were late in breaking out. We would feel better once we broke out, Ma kept saying. I really felt fine, except for a couple little spots. No I have to break out all over, she kept saying. Rex broke out. Finally Dad said he had the perfect answer. He planned to go to Dan Cole’s farm. Why? He has sheep. Why do you want sheep? Because if I bring home the sheep’s droppings ( though he did not say droppings), your mother can brew it up and that sheep turd tea will make you break out overnight. I didn’t even wait overnight. By the time the sun went down, there were spots on me to connect and make a picture. Whew!
I do have a lot of ear aches. It seems that my left ear aches all the time. When it aches really bad, Dad comes up to me, takes a puff of his cigarette, and blows it in my ear and puts a piece of cotton in my ear. Really, that does take the ache out for quite awhile. He has a friend who said a drop of urine in the ear works wonder, but Ma said no way was any urine going in her kid’s ear.
If we get a tooth ache, Ma reaches in the cupboard and brings out the cloves and sprinkles some out and tells us to get a bunch and put it on a little piece of cotton and place it where it hurts. That does work and I like the taste of cloves!
Rex has the croup in the winter. He barks so the whole house is awake. Before he goes to bed, she takes the big jar of grease from under the stairs where we store things, and warms some. She finds a big piece of flannel cloth and puts it on the stove shelf until it has warmed through. Then she puts the warm grease on his chest and his back , lays the warm piece of flannel on his chest and pulls his pajama top over his head. That usually lets him sleep all night without coughing too bad.
If one of us gets a little cut, she sprinkles some sugar on it to stop the bleeding, slaps a band aid on it and tells us it will be fine and so far, so good. I notice sometimes if she works outside on a really hot day, she comes in and sprinkles some salt on her tongue. I asked her why and she said it made her feel better.
We have had all the usual diseases a kid picks up at school. The “old-fashioned” measles was the worse for me because the boys had it two weeks before, so I had it by myself and laid in a dark room while they were in school and my parents were at work. All I wanted was pineapple and when Ma brought some home from work, I ate just a teaspoon of it, but oh, it was good.
All in all, Ma is quite a germ killer, even though some of her methods are a bit strange. Now that school is almost upon us, I wonder what she will be boiling up next? I hope it tastes sweet!