Pretty Blue Bottle
time of year the weather changes and many people begin to complain
colds and sniffles. The
children are in school and bring home germs
their parents and younger siblings catch from them.
Some people put up
it for a time, trying
over-the-counter remedies while
rush off to the local doctor’s office.
I was growing up, a doctor was not called unless it was absolutely
and at that time many local doctors, at least in rural areas,
made house calls. Although I
suppose that is a thing of the past,
seems at least that it kept contagious illnesses from being
around through crowded doctor’s offices.
our family, Momma always tried her home remedies first and if that
work then the doctor was called. Many
people used home remedies
various “cures” that were passed down from previous generations.
learned early on not to complain too much or I was in for some of
home remedies. However, Mommas have a way of knowing
you are sick even if you don’t say anything about it.
had many home remedies including the well known, chicken broth
the home remedy that I remember most was the one Momma used
a cold, sore throat, or congestion. It
was called “a greasing”.
the first sign of a cold Momma would call to us at bedtime, saying,
you go to bed, come on in here by the stove first and
me give you a greasing.”
greasing meant that Momma was going to get out “the cloth”.
kept in a drawer where it was placed after Momma washed it after
last time we got “a greasing”. It
was just a piece of thick flannel that
been cut from an old worn out flannel nightgown or flannel sheet.
was cut to fit on the chest from shoulder to shoulder and
down to about the waist.
she got out “the cloth”, the greasing began.
Momma would get
that familiar pretty blue bottle of Vicks VapoRub and smear that
stuff all over our throats and chests.
After we were properly
she would hold the cloth up to the heating stove for a few
to allow it to get good and hot. When
it was just the right
Momma fastened it around our necks with safety pins.
cloth so very warm and comforting. In
my mind I can still feel the
of that old stove and hear the soft popping and clicking sounds
made as I stood there basking in it’s warmth while Momma rubbed me
with Vicks VapoRub. We
would put our warm flannel pajamas
over the warm cloth and then we were tucked into bed with lots
cozy blankets. The pungent
fumes from the Vicks VapoRub did help
open up our stuffy noses but whether or not it cured us, we
felt like we had been “doctored up” good.
next morning Momma would insist that the Vicks VapoRub be
off completely because we couldn’t go outside with it all
us. Vicks VapoRub was a
strong menthol-like salve and it felt cool
the air hit it. Momma
probably thought it would make us sick if we
it on but for some reason I got the idea that I would surely freeze
death if I didn’t wash it off and the coroner’s report would
“Cause of death: Vicks VapoRub”.
if one of us had really bad congestion, Momma worried that
might get pneumonia so she would put a blob of Vicks VapoRub in
pot of hot water and we had to lean over the pan with a towel on our
and breathe the fumes. Thus,
the first redneck vaporizer came to be.
often told about the time that my brother got into the Vicks VapoRub
he was just a toddler. The
pretty blue bottle was just so attractive to
and somehow he managed to get the jar opened.
Momma found him
on the floor with most of the Vicks Vapo Rub smeared all over himself.
He was taking deep breaths that sounded like Darth Vadar with
a terrible cold.
was breathing with his mouth wide open because the strong fumes were
his breath away. Momma
quickly bathed him and he was
for the experience but Momma was more careful not to leave the
VapoRub where he could get to it after that.
thought that Vicks VapoRub smelled powerfully strong but we
used to it. Momma often told
us how fortunate we were to have a
that smelled so good because as a child she had to wear
called an asafetida bag that was worn like a necklace around
neck. Momma said asafetida
was some kind of plant resin that smelled
like a skunk and was sometimes mixed with sulfur, garlic,
tar, camphor, and no telling what else. She said that children wore
bag at night while they slept and some children were even sent to
with the asafetida bag dangling from around their necks.
was thought that this would keep children from catching diseases.
was probably true because no self-respecting germ would want
go near them. According to
Momma, it would be difficult to catch
at all since there wasn’t a soul who wanted to be downwind
a person wearing the odorous asafetida bag.
I had children of my own, Momma gave them “a greasing” too if
happened to be at her house when a bad cold struck.
home remedies do get passed down because I used Vicks
on my children too and they are all still living. I
don’t know if
was the Vicks VapoRub, the chicken broth, the warm cloth, or the
love and attention that made us feel better but recover we did!
children would be the first to tell you to “watch out for Momma”
is still a pretty blue bottle of Vicks VapoRub in my medicine
and “the cloth” is still around here somewhere.
are some remedies worse than the disease”