September 22 – With seven children, Ma spent a good share of her time being nurse, doctor and entertainer of sick or injured children. By the time all of us were grown up she had had enough experience to be in charge of a pediatrics ward in a hospital!
Frequent earaches made my early life miserable and I have vivid memories of lying in on the settee in the living room with my ear on a cloth bag filled with hot salt. The droning of the routine noises of a typical household was almost unbearable. The fear of the treatment given by the doctor, coupled with the actual treatment itself (syringing hot water into my ear) didn’t help the pain in any way!
Poor Ma! Many a night did she spend sitting up with me through the darkness while I hoped and hoped it would soon be daylight. Having done the same thing with my own young son, I can well believe that she also prayed for the dawn, even more fervently than I did. The child suffers only pain; the mother fears also the permanent damage that can be done.
Colds and sore throats too were a normal part of our existence as children. The “wet rag” around the neck was a common sight in those days. First, the cloth was dipped in cold water and wrung out and then covered over with a wool sock or scarf and fastened with a huge safety pin. This worked wonders for the sore throat and kept me from coughing too.
Sometimes, if nothing else worked, and pneumonia was knocking at the door, Ma would as a last resort, subject us to the horrors of the “cold sheet treatment.” I shiver now at the thought of the shock of that ice cold sheet meeting my bare body.
How was it done? Ma would get the living room as warm as possible with the old heater burning full blast. Then she put several of her own handmade quilts and afghans down on the settee. On top of this went the sheet that had been immersed in the coldest water possible and only partly wrung out.
Then she called for me. I had shed all of my clothes in preparation for the ordeal. Reluctantly I walked to the torture chamber and was unceremoniously dumped onto the ice cold sheet. My breath came out in a deep gasp as the Arctic cold shocked my senses.
Quickly and expertly Ma pulled the layers of sheet and quilts around me, tucked me in like a mummy, and in no time I was deliciously warm all over, my arms stuck tightly against my sides, only my head peeking out of the cocoon. Soon I would sink off into a blissful, healing sleep and waken to feel much better. – CHRIS