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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rub A Little Dirt On It

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?


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?”


Anonymous said...

You gotta get your priorities straight now.

Anonymous said...

You gotta get your priorities straight now.

TexWisGirl said...


speaking of home remedies and pink eye, we boiled milk on the stove and then spread it across our eyelids with cotton balls.

joeh said...

Ah...memories and you tell them so well. The Jaws refrence was perfect!

I remember when if mecurochrome, menthalatum, or vick's brothers wouldn't cure it then by gosh we might just go to thhe doctor's office. I think that happened once. After two weeks of waking up with a nose bleed every day, my mom finally declared "When we get home from vacation next week your going to the doctor."

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Have to love those cousins' reunions! And your stories of home medicine are both hilarious and wince-inducing!

Anonymous said...

A dish towel. Had you said anything else, I'd have doubted the veracity of this story, but that? That's authentic down-home medical help1

Leenie said...

Trips to the doctor ppffft! Put some bag balm on it unless it's squirting blood. If you can still breathe you'll probably get better after a nap.

Geo. said...

Pearl, on this special day, your post evoked memories childhood home remedies that make me glad to be grown up and an amnesiac. Happy Lupercalia!

Connie said...

Home-made fudge can cure just about anything I think. :-)

This story made my elbow hurt.

Happy Valentine's Day, Pearl!

The Cranky said...

I'm now going to have that song stuck in my head for the rest of the day; competing with memories of noxious home remedies.



I needed to remember the onion poultices?

Happy Hearts Day with no home remedies!

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

Oh, yeah, a dish towel will cure it. Fix ya right up. Maybe we'll take you to the ER, but we'll have dessert first. Pass the Jello mold, Clark.

Joanne Noragon said...

Those were the days. Your arm could be broken for two days. My brother's was. We won't mention the rest.

Craver Vii said...

Do you hear that, Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man killed my father. The young Candace makes it now.

Glen said...

nothing gets in the way of dinner - nothing! :-)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Hey, the arm wasn't going anywhere. Dinner was hot, right then.

fishducky said...

Just spray some Windex on it!!

Buttons Thoughts said...

Dinner first yup priorities:) B

Gigi said...

Rats! Fishducky beat me to it!

I'm pretty sure we are related - my parents had the same mentality regarding home remedies.

Joe Pereira said...

To my father, a doctor is the self-same thing as a pathologist - you have to be dead to see one

Bodacious Boomer said...

OMG! I'd totally forgotten about the "warm" baby oil my mom used to put in my ear when I had an ear ache.

Good times...

Inspector Clouseau said...

Shag carpeting. OMG!

jenny_o said...

The worst thing I ever had was a bee sting a few times. Slap some swamp mud on that baby and you're good to go. No, of course there aren't any germs in it! It's MUD! All-natural!

You and your cousin were made of stern stuff.

sage said...

did you ever threaten to report your mom to the AMA for practicing medicine without a license?

Unknown said...

Funny how that generation had to have such things regimented... At our place dinner was at 5pm come hell or high water, and if we kids missed it by even a few minutes we didnt eat that night.

Jocelyn said...

Every time I talk to my cousins, too, I realize I'm not alone in the world and that, well, it all could have been that much worse.

Also: thank heavens dinnertime wasn't 8 p.m. That smarts.

Belle said...

Whoa, tough love I guess! My grandma used to put mustard plasters on my chest. I did like that. I'm not sure it worked though.

River said...

If we weren't bleeding my mum's cure for almost anything was "go to bed and get some sleep, you'll feel better".

jeanie said...

Everything over here got Friars Balsam on it - and if it hurt, it meant it was working.

goatman said...

My neighbor just brought me a bottle of colloidal silver. "Kills infection and cancer", he says, "but turns your skin blue."
You can even use it on the dogs and cats.