I come from a long line of people who believe that nothing says “cure-all” like a good bowel movement.
“Mom, I’ve got a headache.”
“Have you pooped?”
We’re full of home-y advice like that. Mustard plasters, vinegar on sun burns, baking soda on bee stings –
You may lose what respect you still have for me, but I’ve got a cousin who claims that his mother used to blow cigarette smoke into his ears to combat earache.
She claims to have learned it from her mother (my grandmother).
As someone who was privy to the fact that grandma would sneak a smoke in the bathroom, standing on the bathtub and blowing it out the fan to avoid detection from grandpa, I can’t help but wonder if this was her way of having a cigarette without having to hide it.
Why blow it out a window all alone in the bathroom when you can sit on the davenport and blow it – in a curative fashion, of course – in a kid’s ear?
I’m just surprised she didn’t have a use for the ashes.
Still, I wonder about the rhythms of the body, the things we think are good for us, the things we know are not.
Me, for example.
“You sound nervous,” Mary says.
“Nah,” I say. “I’ve just had to go to the bathroom for the last hour, hour and-a-half.”
She laughs, a pleasant sound that promises commiseration and, if you’re lucky, lemon bars later.
“I’m not kidding,” I say. “I keep thinking that I’m going to do just this one more thing…” I trail off, switch ears. “You’re lucky you’re at home.”
You can almost hear her shrug over the phone. “Meh,” she says. “The difference is that at home when you finally give in and run to the bathroom you can do that weird little dance all the way there without someone asking you if you’re gonna be okay.”
“I waited until mere moments before disaster a couple weeks ago and then got stopped just short of the bathroom by someone with a spreadsheet question. The roaring panic in my head should’ve been audible, but he didn’t appear to have heard it.”
“Where do you suppose that comes from,” Mary muses. “Were we not allowed breaks as children?”
“Perhaps I’m afraid I’ll miss something,” I suggest.
“Perhaps you need someone to blow smoke in your ear.”
I laugh. This is why I call her.
“Hey,” I say, warming to the subject, “If blowing smoke in the ear is good for earache, where are we gonna have to blow that smoke when I can’t tear myself away from my desk long enough to –”
“Hey,” she says, mock-stern. “We don’t talk like that.”
"No,"I say, smiling. "We don't."
To those playing along at home, recent medical tests have all come back negative. My doctor counsels that my myriad symptoms could be stress-related. I, of course, listed 30-odd reasons for him as to why this could not be, broke out in hives, and stole all his Q-tips when he left the room for help. Doctors, huh?