In January 2009, I made a New Year’s resolution to preserve more of my family’s history by recording a story or event or even recipe from the past. This week, I am nursing a hard cold and feel pretty lousy. The darn bug made me start wondering about what my grandparents’ generation did for sick people.
When I asked my parents what they remember about being sick, both said, with a great deal of disgust, “Cod liver oil!” In my mom’s house, if you were sick, you got to sleep downstairs on the family room couch because it was the warmest room in the house. The doctor, who still made house calls, wasn’t called in unless you were really, really sick. Mom remembers the doctor being called only a handful of times.
How different that was from my childhood! Because my dad was in the military, we went to the base hospital all of the time. Of course, I was a really sickly child. If I had been born back in my grandparents’ time, I’d have died within my first few weeks of my life when I came down with pneumonia, followed by years filled with ear infections, mumps, German measles and all sorts of other ailments.
My husband’s family’s favorite home remedies were paregoric and (gulp!) turpentine. I don’t think they actually ingested the turpentine…it was used with lard and rubbed on the chest for congestion. Another thing they did and my husband still will do if he is sick is pin a sock around his neck. I always know if he doesn’t feel well because he will come out of our room with an old sock sticking above his collar.
What about your family? Do you remember your parents or grandparents talking about an unusual home remedy?