Saturday, August 14, 2010

Open Wide!

Do other baby boomers remember that awful-tasting potion our mothers religiously gave us in the 1950s called cod liver oil?  To this day, my imagination can pull that experience up from the piles of memories and bring it front stage to where I can taste the stuff, smell the stuff, and still gag on the stuff.

That was back in the days when parents didn't take their kids to doctors unless we were missing a limb or were bleeding so badly there was no alternative but to let us die.  Cod Liver Oil was the elixir that could ward off pretty much most diseases and build strong bones and bodies.  We kids surely didn't have a choice if we wanted to take it or not.  It was a done deal before that despicable squeeze-dropper bottle got itself in the house and was carefully placed up on the second shelf of the kitchen cupboard above our junk drawer.  I can still envision that god-awful brown bottle sitting up there--just waiting to dole out my daily dose of penance.

Boy, hasn't the world changed in a short time!  Can parents today actually force a kid to do something like that?  Without human services coming in and calling it abuse?  Parental guidance was equaled to the guidance of the lord almighty back in the 1950s, and by god, if mother wanted me to take cod liver oil, then the world be damned, this little girl would take it.  Amen.

My kindergarten year, or Primary as it was called back then, I missed 60 days of school, despite the cod liver oil.  Bad tonsils overpowered me, and the oil, and they weren't about to be calmed down with a daily dose of that yuck.  It was then that my parents finally took me to the doctor.  Surgery was immediately scheduled to remove my tonsils and my adenoids.  In a Catholic Hospital, no less, where the halls swarmed with women flitting around in long black dresses, veils, and jingling rosaries in the guise of goodness.   Ether was the anesthetic of choice back then, and I still remember screaming and raising a holy fit on the operating table as the doctors held me down and tried smothering me with that nasty stuff. 

As luck would have it, the Catholic Hospital was jam packed with patients, so after they brought me out of surgery they parked my bed-on-wheels beneath a big statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the end of the hall, with my head facing the statue.  As I was coming out of the anesthetic, I remember being really groggy, and the first thing I saw was Jesus with his arms outstretched in front of me.  I thought I was dead.  Right then and there I started puking up blood and it seemed to me that the entire hospital exploded into a cacophony of clamoring rosary beads and a flock of black bats flying around me. 

We can laugh and make fun of our childhoods and the way our parents raised us, but mine were a loving couple who only wanted the best for their kids.  We were poor as church mice, and my days as a little girl on the farm were mostly unsupervised, and I roamed  around the place like an untamed banshee.  My little feet were so tough.  I walked on stones like it was grass.  I got bit up by bugs, played in the dirt, stomped my bare feet in fresh rain puddles, picked night crawlers for fishing, and helped seine minnows, made mud pies, and accidentally stepped in more than a few fresh green mushy cow pies.  I was given a bath on Saturday nights, and the other nights I remember sitting on the porch cleaning the dirt out between my little toes before bedtime.

Now, after all that, is it any wonder that poor mother felt she needed to shove the cod liver oil into me?