When I am sick, I feel most strongly the fact that I walk alone in this world. I am fortunate to have people who care. One friend has been in touch daily, to see if I’ve improved. Another brought me over a pot of steaming chicken soup. My family has been concerned. All of it is so appreciated, but none compares, quite, to a nurturing hand.
My mother used to warm oil of clove, dip cotton balls in it, and place those warm, scented bits of cotton in our ears. She rubbed our chest with menthol ointment, gave us syrupy sweet tea and soft-boiled eggs. She rested her hand on our foreheads to see if we were feverish, and tucked extra blankets right up to our chins.
When I was a young mother, I remember great fear when my children were sick, but also a great deal of impatience. I tried to employ the lessons I’d learned in my own childhood. I hope my efforts gave them the feeling of love and calm that my mother’s ministrations always gave to me.
I worked on Sunday, with a miserable cold and a wintry day outside. One friend suggested that when I get home, I make hot tea with honey to make me feel better. I thought of it for the rest of the day. I stopped, on the way home, to get a couple movies. I was planning to settle in on the couch under blankets, with a big mug of hot tea.
Home, I put the kettle on. I poured out the crystal apothecary jar filled with teabags. Organic Ginger Tea was my choice. Once, in college, when I was deathly sick with the flu, My friend, Chung, dropped by with a large thermos. “Ginger tonic,” he said, “does not taste good…taste like medicine. Drink it all, little bit at a time. Just sip. It will make you all better.” He gave me a wink. “Ancient Chinese medicine,” he smiled. He was right. It did taste terrible, but it was hot and soothing to sip. And it did cure me.
Mom had always sweetened our tea with sugar, but my mother-in-law had preferred honey, especially for medicinal purposes. I rarely use honey, but I knew I had a part of a jar on the counter. I don’t remember where I got the idea for whiskey and honey, but I know that is an old folk remedy, too, and I was willing to try it. I pulled down an old bottle of Hennessy Very Special Cognac from the cabinet where I store wine glasses, cocoa powder, and odds and ends of liquor.
I chose my largest mug and put two ginger teabags in it. When the water was near boiling, I opened the honey. It took me a few moments to realize that the black flecks on the surface were dead fruit flies. I paused for just a second before saying, “Oh, what the hell,” and I boldly dipped my spoon in among the tiny cadavers to retrieve one spoonful of honey. The balance of the jar, I threw away. The bottle of cognac had a heavy layer of dust on it. When I pulled the cap off, the cork crumbled into a dozen pieces, some of them falling into the bottle. I got out my little strainer, and poured a good shot of liquor over the honey in my cup. Over that, I poured boiling water.
I covered the whole concoction with a saucer, to let the tea steep, and brought it to the living room with me. Both dogs in their places on the couch, I took my spot between them. A steaming mug in front of me, I started the movie, raised my feet onto the stool, pulled the afghan over me, and settled in. Who says a person can’t self-nurture? I had to lower my standards a bit, but otherwise was perfectly capable!