Most moms are a repository of knowledge, both the book and folklore variety. Lately, it seems every time I open my mouth out comes my mother's voice. After all, she gave me some of the best advice I've ever received and now that I'm a parent, it's time to pass it on.
She told me, "wear an old coat and buy a new book," and "it's only a job if you'd rather be doing something else," and (particularly apropos in these hard economic times) "if money can fix it, it's not a problem."
I once heard her say about a family friend who was in a bind, "I'm willing to bet that at least 95 percent of the decisions people regret the most in life involve drugs or alcohol." Wise woman, my mother.
She came from a long line of wise women and a few who might even be called "conjure women." Her mother had the ability, demonstrated on many occasions, to witch warts and draw fire. The latter involved reading a secret Bible verse over the person who had painful burns. Invariably, the pain would lessen.
The power of prayer? The power of suggestion? Faith and psychology working hand in hand? I dunno. I just know it always worked.
For generations, White Countians would bring babies with thrush to my great-aunt. She was known far and wide for having the ability to conjure the oral fungus infections.
My daughter Molly's gift is the ability to look at a pregnant woman and predict the sex of her baby with 100 percent accuracy. She grew up in our resale clothing store so there were always pregnant ladies coming and going. When she was just a toddler, she would ask the expectant customer what she was going to name her little girl (or boy). It took us a while to realize how right she was but when we starting tracking it, the results were amazing.
She even predicted twins, and their sex, before the ultrasound. She's never missed. Unfortunately, her talent doesn't carry over to lottery numbers. Believe me, we tried.
Apparently these metaphysical talents skipped my generation. My only contribution to keeping the conjure woman tradition alive is my use of home remedies.
I'm a steadfast believer in the curative properties of chicken soup. My husband calls it Jewish penicillin. The secret is knowing when to serve just the hot broth (major congestion with coughing) and when to add noodles and vegetables (sniffles and muscle aches). I bring out the big guns (matzah balls) when the other symptoms are accompanied by unbearable whining.
I was pleased to see the Mayo Clinic has posted video and instructions on nasal lavage, another of my favorite home cures. It's not as nasty as the name implies; it just involves sniffing salt water up the nose. It clears stuffy sinuses in a snap.
Other home cures are of a little more questionable purview. When my daughter had a slight fever, I Googled home remedies for those symptoms and up popped the suggestion that I slice onions and cover her feet with them, held in place with thick socks. The entry was followed by this disclaimer: "We always recommend consulting a doctor before trying any of these cures at home."
Hmmm. So here's the scenario: I make an appointment, hand over a $40 co-pay and sit for an hour in a waiting room packed with people who all seem to be doing their best to cough out a lung or two. When I'm finally ushered into my doctor's presence, I say, "Dr. Bob, Rachel has a 100-degree fever. I'm thinking of chopping up some onions and fastening them to her feet. What do you think?"
Yeah, that's gonna happen.
It's important to know when to use the home cures and when to seek professional medical advice. All things in moderation. That's something else my mother taught me. Thanks, Mom.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears frequently and on gainesvilletimes.com. First published May 2, 2008.