I've been battling a migraine for most of the day and have tried every conventional trick in the book: caffeinated tea to shrink the blood vessels, earplugs to drown out the construction down the block (will they ever finish that building?), ibuprofen (3 every four to six hours but no more than 12 in twenty four hours...Wait, what?). Sleeping helps, but there's only so much sleeping I can do before I end up wide awake at 11pm with a full day of meetings ahead of me (too late). So, I'm lying in bed and I'm thinking, "Mom would have had the Vicks on my temples hours ago."
My mother once told me that if she had come to the US as a young girl, she would have studied to become a nurse. (She also said she wouldn't have married and she certainly wouldn't have had children. Thanks, Mom. I've got to go to therapy now.) I can picture her in peach colored scrubs, stethoscope around the neck, clipboard in one hand, giant jar of Vicks in the other.
If you're familiar with the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then you're already familiar with my mother. Just substitute Nia Vardolos' father in the film with a tiny Cuban woman and arm her with a little jar of Vicks VapoRub (or bibaporoo as it was pronounced in our house) and you've got the picture. My mother used (or tried to use) Vicks on us for everything, and I do mean everything. Got a pimple? A little Vicks will clear that right up! No, Mom, it really won't. As a matter of fact, it will make it infinitely worse. Obviously, she reached for the Vicks if one of us had a chest cold. She'd toss a spoonful of it into the vaporizer and rub a handful on our chests. She'd also try to speed up the effectiveness of the Vicks by heating up a chest sized piece of paper bag over an open flame and applying it to our chests. Don't worry, she'd let it cool for a second, she's not a monster.
My mother's home remedies and the subsequent stories that accompany them are legendary in our family. They range from the slightly bizarre and somehow effective (for hiccups, stick a piece of thread to your forehead. Thinking about how crazy you look will distract you from the hiccups, curing them in minutes. Don't' ask me how you get it to stick. ) to the simple, completely outrageous and in no way effective. My sister will often call and give a full report of Dr. Abreu's latest medical breakthrough. The most spectacular of these stories involves my brother and a jar of Vicks.
My brother was staying with my parents at their old place three years ago when his foot started to bother him. He works in a very busy restaurant, so it's not surprising that he occasionally hurts himself. His symptoms were eventually diagnosed as gout, but not before my mother stepped in to take a look. She counseled that he should lie down, rub his foot with some Vicks and all would be well. My brother argued (as gently as he could, I'm sure ) that the Vicks wouldn't help matters and that he'd be seeing a doctor about it. That was his first mistake. His second mistake was falling asleep on her watch. As the story goes, my brother was sleeping soundly when he felt something on his ailing foot. He awoke to find my mother crouched by his bed, rubbing a healthy dose of Vicks onto his foot. It was the middle of the night and my brother did not react well. My father, my sister and I all had a good laugh about it, and really, isn't laughter the best medicine?