The Online Magazine FOR and ABOUT Southside Virginia
By Gertrude M. Slabach
Temperatures soared that summer. Humidity squeezed every drop from the childrenís flushed bodies as they worked and played. Yet heat and humidity didnít stop the kids at camp from having a great time!
There were the usual mishaps: a few cuts and scrapes, a myriad of heat-induced headaches, a sprain, a host of insect bites, a few stings, and one broken finger.
I was ready for all of them, I thought. I handed out the usual Tylenol, juice, ace wraps, ice and Band-Aids. I was ready for anythingóuntil the bee sting.
She was a petite girl from a big city, and her dark eyes looked up at me, glistening with tears. Her face betrayed her fear while she attempted to still her quivering chin. She tried to be brave as I wiped the sting and applied my remedy. In a few minutes, she was up and playing with her comrades, seeming to forget about the sting and its pain.
She talked to her father that night, long distance. She told him about the sting, and about the nurse whose medicine had made the hurt go away.
A few weeks later her father came to take her home. Amid the noise and bustle of kids saying good-bye at the end of camp, I noticed the two of them standing off to the side. They seemed to be waiting for something as they stood with clasped hands. Finally, after most of the campers had left, he approached me, pen and paper in hand.
"I vork vor ze Vashington Post," he introduced himself. "I haf many friends who are doctors. I vould like to know vat medicine you give to my girl."
For a moment I was blank and frightened. Was he angry with me? What had I done? Then I noticed his smile.
Then I remembered those translucent brimming eyes following the sting of the bee. I remembered the brave, trusting, look on the olive-skinned girlís face a few weeks ago.
"Prescription?" I asked, trying not to laugh with relief. "No, you don't need a prescription," I answered. ďItís not really a medicine,Ē I attempted to explain.
"Den vat iss it called?" he wanted to know. "My yittle girl gets sting many times. Always it hurts. She cries for long time. Dis time, she call to tell us, the nurse use special medicine and zee pain goes away like zat!Ē he demonstrated, snapping his fingers.
ďI vant to vrite it down zo I can get some medicine vor ze next time she gets sting. Vere did you learn about dis medicine?" he persisted.
"I learned about it when I was a little girl, from my mother," I explained. "Do you know what Cornstarch is? Do you have it in your house?Ē
He nodded, obviously puzzled.
ďAll you need is some cornstarch and water.Ē
"Cornstarch? Vater?" he asked.
"Yes, you just mix some cornstarch with cold water until you have a smooth paste. Just put a spoonful or two of the paste on the sting. It cools the skin and eases the pain," I assured him.
"Dat is vot you used?" he asked, incredulous. "Dat iss all?"
"That's what I used," I assured him.
He tucked his paper and pen into his pocket. Then, reaching down, he took his daughterís hand.
"I vill be sure to tell my vife," he assured me. "Sank you zo veddy, veddy much."
ďYouíre so welcome,Ē I answered.
I watched them leave, smiling to myself. Cornstarch and water. Mama's home remedy.
I had come to Clover, Virginia, to be a camp nurse for the summer, leaving my job at a medical center. I had worked with some of the best professionals in our hospital. I had participated in and witnessed numerous miracles, and I had administered expensive, rare drugs in order to save lives.
Yet when she came crying to me for comfort and help with the sting of the bee, I responded with my motherís home remedy instead of a sting-stick. Of course it took a little longer to treat the problem. I needed to mix the paste and sit beside her, spooning the liquid onto the welt on her arm. It also made a bigger mess than other methods would have made.
Was it the time and attention that helped the cure, or was it the ingredients in the remedy? Could it perhaps have been the combination of both that produced the healing results?
In the years since that sting and that fatherís questions, Iíve come to appreciate even more some of the tried and true home remedies available to anyone. Theyíre always on hand, always available, and the benefits are priceless. Just like cornstarch and water.
In the sickness of the world around me, there are some who scoff at the basics and ridicule those who dare to rise above mankindís fallen state. They claim that times have changed, and that we live in a different world from back then.
How many times Iíve run for the latest invention, read the latest philosophy, or pondered the latest theory. How many times Iíve felt disillusioned and disheartened! How often Iíve wished I had just stuck with the basics!
When it comes to raising kids or relating to others around me, I plan to stick with the home remedies I learned as a child. They work, every time: reverence for God and His Word, respect for authority, restitution and forgiveness, the rod of correction for training, repetition in learning, and responsibility for actions.
They may be old-fashioned, but theyíre still the best for me. Iíve never known any of these ingredients, if applied correctly, to fail. They provide greater healing than any quick-fix methods Iíve seen recommended.
These days when Iím tempted to try out the latest trend in dialogue or tolerance, I remember that Mamaís home remedy still works best of all.
Home Remedy was first published in August 2000 in Southside Banner. It is also in Gert Slabach's book: Southside Glimmers
Born and raised in western Maryland, Gertrude Slabach has claimed Southside Virginia as home for over twenty four years. She is an RN and works part-time at Fuller Roberts Clinic in South Boston, Virginia.
Gertrude and her husband Dave have six children; four sons and two daughters.
She is the author of three books: Arenít We Having Fun Dying?!, Southside Glimmers, and Always Mamaís Girl. The books can be purchased at Windmill Farm Bake Shop, the South Boston-Halifax County Museum, or by contacting her at:
Read more about Gertrude Slabach's Books in print here >>>
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