Anything else could be cured, according to my mother, by taking, as she put it, “a good shit”.
Stomach ache? You just need to take a good shit.
Headache? Take a shit.
Warts? You probably just need to take a good shit.
She was full of warm advice like that.
In her heart of hearts, my mother fancied herself a medic. She lived for the moment one of us would come running into the house – “MOM!!!” – shouting in that tone that makes any woman who has ever been called "Mom" stop what they’re doing and come running.
She specialized in make-do situations. She once removed a perfectly nostril-sized pebble from my nose when I was five using nothing but her wits and her left pinkie nail.
And she loved slivers. Her eyes would glitter as she’d go for her sewing kit.
“Oooh, we’ve got a nice one here,” she’d say, hunched over the afflicted spot. “Howdja get that? You climbing telephone poles again? Kevin, give me your lighter.” And she’d hold her needle over the flame. “It’s sterile,” she’d say. “Hold still, now, we don’t want another incident.”
I once watched her actually pry a nail out of my brother Kevin’s tennis shoe. The nail had gone up through the shoe and well into the arch of his foot, the result of running across the top of the dump that ran behind the trailer park. I amuse myself by pretending to recall that it was gruesome and that you could actually hear the nail rub against bone as she wrenched it from the bottom of his shoe.
The truth is that she popped that baby right out of there. With Kevin leaning against the trailer and his foot tucked firmly under her left arm, the hammer in her right, she went at it like she was taking a shoe off a horse.
Kevin howled, of course, but more out of the anticipation of pain than the pain itself. It was over so quickly that he stopped yelling, an abrupt cessation; and we all watched as Mom pulled the shoe and then the sock off.
It was disappointingly bloodless.
“Well,” she said, “I suppose you’ll be wanting new shoes then.”
To all the mothers, the ones who have given birth, the ones who have taken on other people's children, the ones who have willingly "mothered" their friends, their animals, themselves, when called upon and when necessary: Happy Mother's Day.