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The best cold remedy: love and attention

The relatively warm winter is threatening to bring more ticks this spring, and it’s already delivering an unexpectedly large and vigorous batch of winter colds and flus.Doctors are available for actual medical advice. But with many illnesses, medicine isn’t what we rely on to fully restore ourselves. Sometimes what really works is a cool hand on a hot forehead, or a soothing cuddle on freshly changed sheets. In an informal round of interviews with area residents, the answers had one consistent theme: What made me feel better was having my mother spend a little extra time with me. This was as true for “only children” as it was for people who have multiple siblings.Whether you are a parent trying to figure out ways to comfort a child or an adult trying to remember what it was that made you feel better, the following is an unscientific sampling of suggestions. We didn’t add names because, really, what could be more personal than these stories? However, since my heritage will give away my identity on this one: When I was sick as a child my mother would always make me miso soup with large bits of seaweed in it. She would serve it in a large bowl and add rice. Here’s what other people told me:• When I was sick, my mother used to cut an apple in half and core it. Then she would sit with me and scrape out the center of the apple and feed it to me, like instant apple sauce. It was cool and refreshing, but the best part was that she was spending that extra time with me.• When I had a fever, which was often, my mother would sit with me and press cool, wet washcloths to my forehead. And she would change my sheets a lot.• The most comforting thing my mother did really was to stay by my side. She worked from home so staying home sick meant a day with mom, and it was always the best part to spend the time alone with her while Dad and my brother were at work and school.• I suffered from asthma as a child (still do, but not as badly), and my mom would dig out the humidifiers and turn the bathroom into a sauna using hot water from the shower.• First we’d get warm ginger ale, then we’d get chicken noodle soup and, when we started to get better, it would be cinnamon toast. And we got to stay at home in bed and listen to the radio. That was a real treat.• Vicks VapoRub rubbed on my chest always made me feel better, whether it worked or not. It just made me feel better to have someone doing something to take care of me.• My mother would let me stay in bed and read all day. • My mother would sing to me, the old-fashioned songs like “Good Night, Sweetheart.”• She would tickle my back and sing the Irish lullaby, “Toora, loora, loora.” And she used to give my sisters and me crushed ice with Coca Cola. That was a big deal because we were never allowed to have soda or anything with sugar in it. We had an old-fashioned ice grinder on the wall and she would grind the ice and pour it over the Coke. • Soap operas. My mom would let me stay in bed, and I’d watch soap operas all day. My favorite was “As the World Turns.” Even now, sometimes, if I’m feeling down, I’ll get in bed and watch the soaps. • My mother always made me creamed tuna on toast. It was tuna, milk and peas, thickened, on toast. It always made me feel good. I make it now for my daughter. We call it Ugly Tuna.• I used to get to stay home from school and lie on the couch and watch cartoons. • My father used to read to me from my favorite book, “The Book of Knowledge.” I used to love that. And my mother would make soup. It didn’t matter what kind of soup, and it didn’t matter whether I ate it or not. It was comforting, it made me feel better just to know that she had made it.• My mother would put Vicks VapoRub on our chests and then wrap a woolen scarf around our necks with a big pin and send us to school. • My mother would make us egg nog, with vanilla instead of whiskey. Back in those days you could still eat raw eggs because they were so fresh. They came from a nearby farm.

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