My mother tried to kill me! Not once or twice, but many, many, times throughout my childhood. Fall was her season of choice for her murderous attempts. That was when she would break out the vilest tasting medicine known to man and beast and began doctoring my sister and me with it. Not even the pets were spared, as she even gave some of this vile stuff to the stray cats we frequently brought home. She always told us that these medicines were for our own good. Chosen to ward off colds and fever supposedly, many were also excellent for blackheads, pimples and ailments we didn’t even know we suffered from. To this day, I’m still not convinced of that good for us part, as I don’t ever recall anything good following that statement. The fact that she kept repeating that “what does not kill you will cure you” line like some crazed mantra, was proof that she was trying to kill me, all under the guise of motherly love and prevention. Her initial attempted murder plot started with teas. One of her favorites was Sassafras.Sassafras Tea is made from the bark of a Sassafras tree and actually tasted better than it sounded. Another tool in her murder arsenal was a bitter tea made from the blossoms of an herb called Tansy. This tea had been used for centuries as a cure for stomach distress. Recently Googling Tansy, I learned that it was considered a natural insect repellent. It was often planted next to kitchen doors to keep ants and other insects out. Oh, Google also mentioned that all species of Tansy were toxic and that an overdose was often fatal. Need I say more? Father John’s Medicine was another medicine we dreaded. According to Mommy Dearest, Father John’s was a tonic. According to a source that claimed it was a true story, a priest by the name of Father John O'Brien became extremely ill one day. Somehow he was able to make his way to a pharmacy to get something for relief. Once there, he was given a tonic that was composed of cod liver oil that was flavored with a hint of licorice—what a combination! Unlike many medicines of its time, Father John’s Medicine contained no alcohol. (If you ask me, alcohol would have been an improvement.) This tonic supposedly worked so well, that the priest began recommending it to everyone. (Did he know my mother?) Cod Liver Oil: just the name brings tears to the eyes of many. However, the family cats seemed to like it, so I gave them mine when mother was not looking. This was followed by something called Black Draught (a laxative): with a name like that, how could it be anything but poisonous? My research of Black Draught showed that from the 19th to early 20th century, veterinarians prescribed it to constipated cattle and horses. All these remedies caused me to lament, “Lord, we are going to die?”, more than once. Soon, Castor Oil replaced the Black Draught; I suspect it was cheaper or easier to obtain. Finally, there was Sulfur: a yellow powder mixed with Vaseline and applied to cuts as a healing ointment. Sulfur also was used on both children and animals alike. How did I know? I discovered it one day when one of the Easter chickens we got as baby chicks one Easter and raised to adulthood, got a cut on one its legs. This came from it hoping the fence and chasing a neighborhood child. (Attack dogs weren’t good enough for us; we had attack chickens and in the suburbs of all places.) Using a lid from a jar, mother mixed up a small portion of the sulfur powder with a dab of the Vaseline and rubbed it on the attackchicken’s leg. She repeated this exact same treatment when my sister hurt her leg after the chain on her second-hand bike came off as she raced it like a bat-out-of-you-know-what around our neighborhood. The benefits of holistic medicines and remedies are well proven. For instance, gargling with warm, salty water soothes my throat quicker than any over the counter medicine ever did. Alas, as I have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate what my mother somehow knew—that indeed “what does not kill you, may cure you.” Alas, if all else fails and you are still alive, well . . . there’s always Castor Oil.
-Author Carol Gee Retired military Air Force Veteran Author, Columnist and Motivational Speaker
For these and other great laughs, purchase your copy of Random Notes at Amazon.com and major online book retailers.