Home remedies weren’t pretty but they worked

George Brown
I’ll never forget my first encounter with an enema bag. I was about 8 years old and had one heck of a belly ache from something I’d eaten.

I’d heard stories from my older brothers and sister about intimate relationships they’d had with that little black nozzle at the end of the hose on the enema bag, so you’d think I would have known better than to complain, but once the words were out it was too late.

Mom retrieved the enema bag from its hook in the closet, filled it with lukewarm water, and greased that little black nozzle (which suddenly looked huge to me) with a big gob of Crisco. My brothers and sister weren’t allowed to watch but I could hear them giggling in the other room as Mom told me to assume the position. Well, you know what came next.

As a little bit of that warm water trickled down my backside waiting for the enema to work, I swore I would never complain about a bellyache again.

I’m glad Mom didn’t use a gob of her favorite medicine, mentholated Vicks Vapo-Rub, to grease that nozzle. Vicks was Mom’s cure-all medicine. At the first sign of a cold, or for that matter any ailment we complained of, out came the big jar of Vicks Vapo-Rub. We swallowed it, snuffed it, and rubbed it – from the top of our foreheads to the soles of our feet, the specific area of application depending on the nature of our ailment – sunburn, back ache, ingrown toenail, you name it and Mom used Vicks to cure it.

But the strangest home remedy Mom ever used on me bordered on witchcraft. From the time I was a little kid I had warts on my hands, lots of them on both hands. Mom called them seed warts, except for the big fat one on my left thumb, which she called the mother wart. My mother wart was as big as a dime and Mom said if she removed it the seed warts would all go away.

I was all the time catching my mother wart on something while playing, so one day, not long after the enema episode, Mom said it was time to remove my mother wart. She got some cob webs off the ceiling, wadded them into a tight little ball, soaked the little ball of cobwebs in lighter fluid, and then pressed it firmly on my mother wart. I wasn’t resisting, but Mom told my stepdad to hold my right arm firmly behind my back while she got a good grip on my left arm and hand. Then she used a lighter to set fire to the wad of cobwebs on my mother wart.

It burned like fire, which of course it was, for a long minute. When the fire finally went out Mom and Dad released my arms. I opened my eyes and wiped away a few tears to have a look at my mother wart. It was all charred and super sore. But Mom wasn’t done yet. She took some thread, wrapped it around the base of the wart several times and tied it as tightly as she could. She placed a Band-Aid over the wart and told me not to touch it.

A few days later Mom snipped the thread loose and wiggled the wart with her fingers. It was starting to loosen but wasn’t ready to come off yet so she tied another thread around it and applied a new Band-Aid. This ritual continued for a couple of weeks, with the thread slowly but surely cutting its way under the base of the wart until one day when Mom examined the wart it was sitting up like a little mushroom on a stem.

Mom declared that it was time to remove my mother wart. She had my Stepdad hold my right arm behind my back the same way he had a few weeks earlier, while she got a firm grip on my left arm. Then, like a surgeon asking for his scalpel, she asked my brother to hand her the tweezers, and with a quick jerk she ripped the wart off roots and all. Blood squirted everywhere for a few seconds, but Mom quickly bandaged it and the bleeding stopped.

It hurt a lot for a couple of days but gradually began to heal, and just as Mom had predicted, within a few months all of the little seed warts slowly started to disappear until one day they were all gone. To this day, I’m happy to say, I’ve never had another wart.

George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.