Fall has always been my favorite time of the year. Growing up in the swamps of Louisiana didn't have as much color as living in the hills of Tennessee but I still had the chance to splash in rain puddles and feel a nip in the air as I walked the dozen blocks or so to school each day. Being allergic to the heat and sun, I couldn't wait to wake up to ice crystals on the ground and seeing my breath dance around me on a frosty fall morning.
There was only one thing to dampen my love of Autumn. My medical Achilles heel was that I was sick a lot growing up. It was only during the fall and only two things brought me under the weather on a regular basis...strep throat and bronchitis. I don't know if it was because my mother was a heavy chain smoker which affected my breathing or whether it was just inherited but I could always plan on being sick at least once a month for about four to five months of every year until well into my thirties.
My mother got to the point that she knew how to take care of me better than the old town physician could and most of the time I just stayed at home. Mother even had three tried and true remedies for whatever ailed me...alcohol baths, Vicks vapor rub and poached eggs on dry toast.
The alcohol bath was supposed to help break my high fevers but all I could feel was the stinging cold of the alcohol on my heated skin. I would shiver under layers of blankets while Mother kept a watchful eye on the thermometer numbers. Today, doctors would probably frown on dipping your children in rubbing alcohol but back then, one mountain woman's fever reducing remedy was as good as any doctor's pills.
I didn't mind the Vicks vapor rub that much other than the fact the strong smell felt like it was burning my nose hairs. Mother would rub a generous amount all over my chest and throat before bundling me up in hot, dry towels under a mound of blankets. Not only was she trying to break my fevers by sweating it out of me, Mother thought the Vicks vapor rub would somehow help my coughing and congestion.
But it was the awful food I was forced to eat whenever I was sick that I hated the most. For some reason I will never understand, my mother thought the best way to help me on the road to recovery was to feed me slimy poached eggs on dry toast and unsweetened lukewarm tea for every day I lay in bed. It would make me gag but in my house the repercussions for ever trying to say no to Mother was much worse than simply choking the stuff down and hoping it stayed there!
Today, as I look outside my Tennessee home and watch the leaves turn a lovely shade of rich orangey-red, I'm feeling a bit under the weather. I still have my rounds of strep throat and bronchitis I deal with but not nearly as often as I did in my youth. What I'm fighting now is probably a sinus infection but you can bet I will NOT be indulging in any of Mother's home remedies to help me get over this.
My eggs will be fried, my toast will be buttered, and my tea will be hot and sweet. Thanks, Mom, for looking after me when I was younger but I think I'll try something different for a change...