I had never known a summer could be so hot. That summer, I thought that if heat could kill a person, I would die. I wasn’t from Southside Virginia, and I wasn’t used to the temperatures and humidity in this part of the country. I’d come to work as the nurse at Camp Staunton Meadows for the summer and was unprepared for the blistering temperatures. Somehow, I survived. So did the campers.
Many years later, I wrote about an event that happened that summer. The story is in the book Southside Glimmers. You can read about the book here.
And now, here is the story.
Mama’s Home Remedy
Temperatures soared that summer. Humidity squeezed every drop from the children’s flushed bodies as they worked and played. Yet heat and humidity didn’t 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 , nd Band-Aids. I was ready for anything—until 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.
“I vant to buy more medicine like it for ven my little girl gets bee sting again. Do I need to haf a prescription?” he asked.
Then I remembered those translucent brimming eyes following the sting of the bee. I remembered the brave, trusting, look on the olive-skinned girl’s face a few weeks ago.
“Prescription?” I asked, trying not to laugh with relief. “No, you don’t need a prescription,” I answered. “It’s not really a medicine,” 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!” he demonstrated, snapping his fingers.
“I 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?”
He nodded, obviously puzzled.
“All you need is some cornstarch and water.”
“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 daughter’s hand.
“I vill be sure to tell my vife,” he assured me. “Sank you zo veddy, veddy much.”
“You’re so welcome,” 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 mother’s 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 father’s questions, I’ve come to appreciate even more some of the tried and true home remedies available to anyone. They’re 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 mankind’s fallen state. They claim that times have changed, and that we live in a different world from back then.
How many times I’ve run for the latest invention, read the latest philosophy, or pondered the latest theory. How many times I’ve felt disillusioned and disheartened! How often I’ve 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. Mama instilled in us a reverence for God and for His Word. She modeled respect for authority, thereby expecting it of us. Mama didn’t gossip; she fleshed out restitution and forgiveness. My mama also believed in and practiced the rod of correction for training her children to act and respond properly. Mama knew the importance – and demonstrated – repetition for learning. Our mother taught us responsibility for actions.
They may be old-fashioned, but they’re still the best for me. I’ve never known any of these ingredients, if applied correctly, to fail. They provide greater healing than any quick-fix methods I’ve seen recommended.
These days when I’m tempted to try out the latest trend in dialog or tolerance, I remember that Mama’s home remedy still works best of all.