I used to write for a local magazine and I thought it'd be fun if I dug up one of my favorite articles. Hope you enjoy it!
I had a wonderful dream last night. There I was in our new den with gardening clothes on and my hair pulled back. I headed out the door and took the deepest breath possible. Spring. The ground was muddy, the air still crisp, and the sun promised to shine all day. I headed around to the side of the house, ready to start digging. Gardening was never my choice for recreational relaxation, yet last year I found a love for it. My spade was about to pierce the ground when I heard, “Babe, its time to get up.” I pulled the covers over my head and growled at the intrusion. Why can’t it be true? Why can’t it be spring?
As I write this, it’s a warm 27 degrees outside. I say warm, because it has been a struggle for Mother Nature to get above twenty. Jack Frost moved in swiftly back in October and he’s refused to leave us, no matter how much everyone complains. Now, I’m a true New Englander. I’ve never had a problem with the cold. Actually, I usually prefer it. But for some odd reason this winter has taken its toll on me. Some have told me it’s a sign of getting older, gosh I hope not. Some have said it’s a lack of vitamin D and advised me to use a tanning bed to ward off the winter blues. I say this winter has just been too dog-gone-long!
Like most parents I know, we’ve battled flu, cold, and cough, one after the other this winter. There was a span from November to January when it just hung on to the point I wanted to encase our home with a quarantine bubble. I disinfected, I washed hands till they were chapped, and I cleaned our home head to toe numerous times. Yet we still battled the cough, head congestion, stuffy runny noses, with body aches, demon. I discovered there is such a thing as too clean.
In my desperation to cure my family from this invisible tyrant, I began to ask anyone and everyone for their advice. Many were very helpful; some seemed more… well… odd.
Ancient home remedies are as old as when human life began. The medicine woman/man would come to your village or home with their cures made of everything from roots to herbs, to dried flowers and weeds. However, with the age of medicine, many people rely on a bottle of nasty tasting syrup or pills to battle their ailments. This proved to be a path to the introduction of super viruses and medications that were no longer strong enough to battle them. Over the past two decade there has been a slow and moderate change in our thinking. Now many people are looking to the past and learning.
I can remember as a child, my Memѐre´ having me drink Hot Tautee’s. This consisted of tea, a teaspoon of honey, and a shot of ginger brandy. I slept very well after one of these. Many of the people I talked with referred me to Blackberry Brandy. One said to take a shot in milk. YUK. And though I grew up with this Brandy remedy, I hesitate on giving it to my 13, 9, & 5 year olds.
As with most homes, Vicks was a staple in ours. Mom would rub our chests and backs down then bundle us up to ‘sweat out the cold’. I could smell that minty medicine scent for days. My Aunt Muriel told me that her mother had her and her siblings swallow a teaspoon of Vicks when they were sick. When I asked if that was safe to do, she replied with a smile, “Probably not.” Our pediatrician said to put Vicks on the bottom of our feet and then cover them with socks when you’re coughing too much. I’m happy to say this worked! Don’t know why because it sounded a little crazy to me but hey, it’s better then what one woman suggested. Her mother would lube her and her siblings up with Vick’s then black pepper them. They were then bundled up with hats, sweatshirts and sweat pants, to ‘sweat the cold out’. When asked if it worked, she told me she only remembers not being able to wash the smell out.
My friend Loretta swore to a great humidifier and saline spray. While Sera pushed with conviction, to try her Mom’s recipe: Bunch of honey, squeeze half a lemon into it, mince a couple fresh garlic cloves, and eat it every four hours. Nope, didn’t try it, sorry Sera! My boss, Debbie, told me to cut an onion in half then pour sugar on it. After 15 minutes, drink the juice. YUK! Plus, I highly doubt my ability to get this down my children’s throats.
For ear aches my Pepѐre´ used to give us Port wine. It cleared you out good. But, I don’t believe the laws allow this anymore, but I could be wrong. I was also told that warm Baby Oil in the ear, works for this too.
The one standard and consistent answer when interviewing people was Castor oil. A teaspoon a day was supposed to ward off most illnesses. And while I’ve never tasted it myself, anyone who’s taken it talks more about its benefits then its taste. So, I guess it can’t be that bad. Maybe?
Alas, winter is coming to an end in our corner of the world. Soon grass will be green and the daffodils will poke their tiny heads out, looking to the sun for warmth. I’ll have my gardening clothes on and the kids will be tromping in the spring mud. Our battle with the cold and flu season will be over, and next winter I’ll remember all that I’ve learned. I just hope I won’t have to torture the children with too many of these ancient remedies.