Moms, Torture and the Flu

Oh my.  It’s almost that time of year again.  Cold and flu season.  Everywhere I go, I see signs for flu shots.  One sign boasted “2014 Flu Shot.”  Last week I got free samples of Simply Saline, a natural flu and cold symptom treatment.  Every time I look at those bottles, I think about nose-drops.  When I was a little girl, I thought nose drops were a special kind of torture moms learned.

My mom talked to Deanna’s friend Nancy’s mom and my friend Betty’s mom and Bonita’s friend JoAnn’s mom about mom stuff:  what to have for dinner, how to get grass stains out of dungarees, and who’s got the chicken pocks now.  While Dad and all his brothers talked about whether Chevys or Fords or Chryslers were the best ever car, Mom and all my aunts talked about kids and what in the world to do with them.  Sometimes Mom got bright ideas from Grandma.  LIke mustard plasters.

I walked around with a runny nose all the time, on account of allergies to dust and animals and pollen, and probably a lot of other stuff.  That’s why I always had a Kleenex in my pocket, and why I always had pockets in my clothes.  I got a mustard plaster once in my life.  I had a super-bad cold.  I never, ever forgot that mustard plaster ‘cuz it burned like the dickens.

“Get it off of me, it burns,”  I cried.

“It’s just a little heat,” Mom said.  “It’ll break up the congestion.”

“I can live with congestion.  This is burning me alive.”

Another thing Mom liked to torture sick kids with was a dishpan full of boiling water.

“Stick your feet in here, and you’ll feel better.”

“You’re cooking my feet.”

“Don’t move them around.  Just hold still, and you won’t feel the heat.”

She was right about that, but I still got the feeling soaking in hotter than hot water was some sort of way to make me learn to suffer like the saints did.  I waltched my feet turn beet red and never moved a muscle.  Everybody knew you gotta suffer to get to heaven.  Might as well get started with a dishpan full of boiling water and a bad case of the flu.

Nose drops were the worst.  Mom had me tip my head back while she dropped a cool dropper full of medicine down my nose.  Nose drps were way worse than laughing with chocolate milk in my mouth.  The nose drops started burning at the back of my nose and seeped all around in my head until they burned out my eyes and ears, and leaked down the back of my throat and made me start coughing.

“Stop being so dramatic,”  Mom said.  Her lips went in a straight line, and I could hear her tongue click at the back of her throat.

“I can’t help it, it burns like blue blazes.”

I coughed worse than when she cleaned out my ears with a bobby pin.

I’m telling you, moms know how to torture kids.  Vick’s Vapor Rub was another thing she slathered under my nose.  It made my skin burn with each breath.  Whoever calls that stuff “the Love Rub” must’ve took some lessons from my mom and her friends.

A few years ago, I asked Mom how to make a mustard plaster. Maybe it was like coffee or wine, and the grownup me would appreciate the healing properties. Maybe Simply Saline would be more like a netty pot, soothing and healing, not torture at all.  Perhaps the foaming saline and eucalyptus will sooth the itch right out of my allergy tortured nasal passages and help me sleep without a Kleenex stuffed up my nostrils.


Guess what?  It did.  Maybe, just maybe, if I get a cold or the flu this season, I’ll try soaking my feet in steaming hot water and add a mustard plaster to my congested chest.  Perhaps.  In the meantime, I’m hedging my bets with a flu shot.

(I gave the pediatric sample to my daughter to try on her kids.  I’ll let you know how that goes.)

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