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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rub a Little Dirt on It; or When the Tough Get Going, the Tough Bring Along Their Dish Towels

Despite their belief that doctors were necessary only in the face of unstoppable bleeding or the inability to draw breath, my parents weren’t bad people.

Cheap, maybe.  Young and over-worked, maybe.  But bad?

No.

I tease them, of course, remind my mother of the day she heated the ear medicine in a sauce pan on the stove, causing the rift in my brain that is no doubt the root cause of my love of shows like “Cops” or “Hoarding: Buried Alive”.  I like to remind her of the out-of-place knuckles she jerked back into place while she diverted my attention with the horrified cry of "Pearl!  What's that behind you?!"

I like to remind her of the days I stayed home with pink eye or other such childhood crud only to be forced into manual labor.

You may be too sick to go to school, young lady, but you’re never too sick to rake that shag carpeting.

It’s been a long process – often involving drunken feats of strength and home-made fudge – but I’ve worked my way through the home-cures of my youth.

I'm better now.

So you can imagine my surprise when I came to find out that my cousins Candace and Susan's mother was likewise casual in the ways of medicine.

In some ways, of course, we have Krista to blame.  After all, if she wouldn’t organize the Cousins' Reunion, we wouldn’t be sharing the stories of our tormented childhoods.

We were sitting in at a large table of cousins.  I was finishing a recitation of my and-then-my-mom-set-my-disjointed-fingers-with-a-quick-snap story when Candace reaches for her beer.

And Candace and Susan lock eyes.

“Tell her,” Susan says.

“Tell me what?” I say.

Candace, a beautiful woman with clever blue eyes, smiles.  “I can beat your knuckle story,” she says.

And she leans forward. 

And suddenly a scene from the movie “Jaws” comes to mind; and in a tone reminiscent of Quint’s story of the torpedoing of the Indianapolis, Candace sets down her beer, the lights go dim, the room silent, and somewhere from the back comes a ghostly whistling…

'Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies...'

“We were horsing around, me and my dad,” she says.  “I was a tomboy, 8?  10?  Always jumping around.  I was grabbing on to his arms, pulling at him, running away and coming back to grab and pull some more.  Well, he grabs my arm back, and I twist – and my elbow slides up my upper arm.”

She pauses, takes a drink while that bit of imagery sinks in.

“It what now?”  I say.  “Your elbow did what?!”

She shakes her head, an eerie smile on her lips.  The hanging light over our table begins to sway.  A whale’s song is heard in the background.

“Weirdest thing,” she says.  “It wasn’t broken.  Honestly, I don’t remember what it was.  Except that it was awful-looking.  And that it hurt.”

The room goes quiet.

“So?” The room yells.  “What happened?”

Candace smiles.  “What do you think happened?”

I shake my head, grinning.  “Your mom didn’t boil up any ear medicine, did she?”

Candace laughs.  “Nope.”

A look passes between Candace and Susan.  Susan nods, ever-so-slightly.

Candace leans forward: “My mom wraps a dish towel around it.”

The room erupts in exclamations:  A dish towel!  Ah-ha-ha-ha!  There are several minutes of pandemonium before we settle down. 

“A dish towel,” I prompt.  “Then what?”

Candace shrugs, smiling.  “What could we do?  It was 6:00.”

We all stare at her. 

“Dinner’s at 6:00,” she says.  “The Emergency Room visit will be after dinner.”

She takes another pull at her beer and grins.  “You didn’t think that anything could interfere with dinner at 6:00, did you?”

********************************************
And in Other News!
You have stories in you, don't you?  No, no, no -- don't ask me how I know this.  The look in your eye alone gives you away.

Frankly, it's quite attractive.

Blogger Linda O'Connell is co-creating one of the anthologies in the Not Your Mother's Books series, details of which can be found ahttp://lindaoconnell.blogspot.com  


Possible Chapter Headings for Not Your Mother's Book on Family
Ø  I'm No Chicken! (wild antics)
Ø  I'm Telling! You're in Trouble! (zany things you overheard, participated in
Ø  or witnessed)
Ø  Dinner, down and dirty (stirring the pot, dishing it out, family mealtime)
Ø  Forget the closet! (discovering family skeletons in a drawer, under a
Ø  mattress, in a letter)
Ø  I inherited what? (keepsakes, antiques, and quirks)
Ø  Waiting in line for the john, the jam and the juice (sharing cramped spaces,
Ø  clothes)
Ø  Ringleaders  (your family circus guru, leader of your pack)
Ø  Family reunions (unforgettable in so many ways; the missing link)


So go to the site.  You don't have to know right now, but why not submit?



44 comments:

Kara said...

Your stories make me feel just a little bit better about the home-cures of my own youth (I suspect I may need more home-made fudge): butter on goose eggs, mustard plasters for bronchitis, and soothers dipped in whiskey for teething babies.

Chantel said...

We need to start a club. (a support group?) I remember when my father took my stitches out...with a pocket knife. (left a wicked cool scar I have been known to tell people I aquired in Hong Kong)

Parental love. If it doesn't kill you, it'll make you stronger....something like that.

Pearl said...

Kara, I believe my own mother was given a glass of beer a day for her blood. Oddly enough, she's not much of a drinker.

Pearl said...

Chantel, my father once buttered a burn on my arm -- then added salt and pepper and nibbled on it. The salt might not have been a good idea, but we did get a laugh or two out of it. :-)

Sausage Fingers said...

I had to deal with the spit on a handkerchief treatment..the handkerchief was then stored up the sleeve on my Gran's apron.
Here's to swimming with bowlegged women

MimiTabby said...

yeah, my mom spit and fixed my face a hundred times..
But your story reminds me of the email conversations I have been having with my sister and my cousins about our childhoods, our parents and grandparents. Considering that we all live in different states, these conversations are priceless and as the family historian, I try to encourage them to continue.


Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

esbboston said...

I do remember bodily damage caused by swings and bicycles. I also remember that my father thought I was faking at not being able to see clearly JUST so I could GET eyeglasses. Yes, father, thats what all the cool kids are doing now days [R word under breath]. My mom knew they were reaLLy needed when I was surprised by the wires hanging between the telephone poles that I could finally see, my Helen Keller Moment.

Ms Sparrow said...

When I was a kid, all knee scrapes and cuts were treated with a drop of orange liquid called mercurochrome. This was preferred because it didn't sting as much as Iodine, the other alternative. In fact, at one time Band-Aids were sold with the stuff already on the gauze. After many years, the FDA realized that kids were being subjected to mercury in tiny amounts and banned its use. I suppose it was a better germ killer than butter!

Friko said...

But Pearl, this is all very well, but what will your own kids have to tell in future? What kind of cures have you invented? Mothers always know best, you know.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Well at least your mom put you out of your misery before dinner. sheesh.

Pearl said...

SF, I must admit that I don't recall my mother cleaning my face with spit. Or perhaps I've blocked it? :-)

Mimi, our shared childhood memories create bonds, and that's for sure!

esb, when I got glasses, I read every sign on the way home until my mother told me to cut it out. :-) I hadn't realized they had writing on them!

Ms. Sparrow, mercurochrome! I had no idea...

Friko, ahh. Astute, as usual. Yes, I wonder what I've done to my son. :-) Actually, now that I think of it (and now that you've reminded me), I DO have a story...

Delores, yes. Poor Candace. The story Saturday night was a combination of shocking and funny. I sincerely love and admire her parents, so it was weird to hear about her poor little elbow...

Leenie said...

The fact that we survived our parents makes us pioneers in a very twentieth century sort of way.

Your blog is the best way to postpone, procrastinate, delay, hesitate, loiter, suspend and tarry when I have a white piece of paper waiting for me to shake off the freak-outs and find that state of effortless creation which is beyond craftsmanship and artistry. hmmm still waiting......but I feel so much better from spending time here.

Pearl said...

Leenie, I'm so glad. I hope, too, that something in what I write shakes loose a memory or thought for the reader.
Also, can't tell you enough how much I love the artwork that you created/I purchased. I love my little Raven. He's not framed yet, but is propped up in my living room, where I believe he will stay.

terlee said...

Mud on bee stings, butter on burns, band-aids instead of stitches. No sense in going to the doctor with my mother in charge.

I fell off my bike, hit hard and slid in loose gravel. Tore my knee and leg to shreds. A passing car had to drive me home. My mother took one look at the mangled mess, scowled at me, and said, "Well, I can't fix THIS!" Spent the day in ER and the Summer in a cast.

Ah, the memories...

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

Having grown up in a household of medical professionals, I could never get away with anything--and, to be sure, any medical condition that did require off-site attention tended to be life-threatening. That being said, I sure HEARD a lot about other people's medical drama. One had to have a pretty stable constitution to listen to dinner-table conversation in our house! Thanks, btw, for the Not Your Mother's Book links. Fun!

Shelly said...

Oh, Pearl- your parents and mine went to the same school of child rearing and repairing.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Pearl, funny post! We didn't get Mercurochrome or hydrogen peroxide on cuts, punctures, and scrapes and goose-eggs, we got iodine full strength treatment to help us remember not to be so careless and reckless next time we were playing with rusty nails, carving stuff with dull jackknives, climbing trees, playing swords with sharp sticks, jumping off of buildings or diving into shallow water. ":)

Pat said...

I'm just so thankful that her Mom didn't do a home manipulation.

St Jude said...

Oh my giddy aunt now I feel old. In my day when you had just given birth you were prescribed by the GP a small bottle of Guiness beer everyday. It was delivered to you in crates. I didn't like the stuff much so mine went to his Lordship.

fishducky said...

I thought everybody got several applications of spit--the universal, portable child cleaner!

mrwriteon said...

Ewww -- about the elbow thing. Otherwise, your respective moms, I think, were preferable to my mother who would go into full panic mode at a sliver. Fortunately, dad was of the 'be a man' school, so there was balance.

Thanks for the reference to the site. Shall check it out.

jenny_o said...

Your knuckle story was one of my favourite tales in your book, Pearl!

And after reading this post, I have to say apparently it ran in the family :)

Anonymous said...

My Grandmother cured everything with Watkins' Liniment. If the injury was external, she rubbed it on. If it was an internal ailment, she made you drink it.
A friend told me about being hurt as a kid after jumping off a garage. Her "old world" grandmother wrapped the wound in a clean rag soaked in urine - which is actually an antiseptic.

Linda Sue said...

When my friend's son was about seven years old he was out playing and his legs gave way...She told him to shake it off or lie down on the sofa for about 20 minutes, quit being such a wuss and don't forget to clean your room...days later they found it to be polio...Way to go - tough love and all...

Linda Sue said...

Oh and my Mom's cure for EVERYTHING was a dose of castoria- nasty liquid laxative, no matter what the ailment or injury...

Mr. Charleston said...

I just knew you were going to say, "Candace, looks what's for dinner," and snap... back in place.

Esther Montgomery said...

My mum was pretty sympathetic. But my dad . . . when my brother chopped the top off his thumb when fetching wood in, my dad told him to 'run it under the tap'! When my brother's shoulder was dislocated when the bus we were on crashed into a lorry - my dad said there couldn't be anything wrong with it because he could still swing his arm round. That it hurt horribly didn't seem to be relevant. Aren't families lovely?
(P.S. I seem to have got off lightly!)

Linda O'Connell said...

Methiolate, mercurochrome, nose drops and butter, those meds were universal. My mom used to say, "Go to school, you'll feel better."

Thanks for the shout out!

Camille said...

My mom passed away a few weeks ago of great old age, orneriness, and from having experienced what we Yankees might call "a good long run". Her spit cures and home remedies will remain the stuff of legend. There's nothing like getting together with other family members to share some laughs and compare scar tissue. Loved the story Pearly girl.

Craver Vii said...

I love my mom; I really do, but I never trusted her doctoring skills. You always weave a good story, Pearl. Thanks for the daily chuckle.

Gigi said...

Sure your mom cleaned you with spit - they ALL did it. All the other home remedies just stand out more in your memory! ;-)

esbboston said...

I had an in-law who a cure for boils, "Raisins for risin's".

actonbell said...

Great stories! My grandmother used to put allum in my mouth for cold sores. Ack, I tried very hard to hide them:)

And shag carpeting is a bad memory from my childhood, too.

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

Broken toes? Why are you more careful when you know you are so sloppy, My Dad asked?
Love the post!
Rosemary

Janel said...

This reminds me of my parents' "Mother Earth" years. You want bread? Help grind the wheat to make it. Do you think those rabbits and chickens are your pets? Think again...

Sarah said...

You'd better be broken or bleeding to get a visit to the ER. Both would help your causes substantially.

HermanTurnip said...

I believe the axe I took to the head when I was a child can explain quite a lot about me (long story). But ever since then, my hair's parted perfectly.

Susan in the Boonies said...

I can submit.
Oh.
Can I submit.

Jo-Anne's Rambling said...

What great times how did we survive childhood.......lol

The Elephant's Child said...

Dinner time was sacred. We all knew that.

the walking man said...

I would have had to tell my parents about an injury before they would know what they wanted to do with it. Thank God i was at sea and 19 before i ever broke anything....those dislocated knuckles and stuff why get beat at home when i already got beat in an scholyard or alley, I learned to pull 'em back myself.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Classic!
My MIL gave my husband a shot of ginger brandy whenever he was ill or hurt--he gimped around on a broken leg for over a week before she decided he needed to see a doctor!

Jenn Jilks said...

I so admire those who DO have stories in them! I have enough trouble dealing with reality!!!
http://vimeo.com/38609431

Amy said...

I had an appendicitis that annoyed my mom so much while she was watching "Overboard" on television that she finally sent me to bed. When my dad came home from work after midnight, I was finally taken to the ER.

I do not let her forget this.