I grew up thinking that earaches were a normal part of childhood. I can vividly recall waking to pain and throbbing, and being so discouraged that I had yet another infection. Over the years my family tried a number of remedies, none of which involved seeing a physician or obtaining a prescription for an antibiotic.
My grandpa, God rest his soul, was convinced that cigarette smoke would do the trick. Innocently believing that grown-ups know best, I would sit on his lap and patiently allow him to blow smoke into my ear. I don’t recall being healed by this particular method, although I suppose the heat might have offered some relief. I’m just thankful I didn’t end up with lung cancer.
If you met my dad today, you’d never guess that he used to smoke cigars and chew tobacco. Following in my grandpa’s footsteps, daddy also tried the smoke remedy. In my childish way of thinking, cigars were fatter so their smoke should have been more effective. But that wasn’t the case.
Occasionally, he would chew up a wad of tobacco, get it all nice and juicy, and then stuff it into my ear. I don’t know if it was his own personal theory that the tobacco would draw out the infection, or if it was something he learned from the guys down at the garage. I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear about it from an actual medical practitioner, but I trusted his methods. If nothing else, the face full of smoke, coupled with tobacco juice streaming down the side of my neck, temporarily distracted me from the fact that I was still in pain.
Thankfully, the family stopped short of my great-grandmother’s old home remedy. I probably would have put up a fight at that point. The story goes that back in the day, if you suffered from an ear infection, Great-Grandma Olive would pee in a boot and pour it into your ear. I’m sure I would have loved her, but as a child I was grateful she died the year before I was born. Now, truthfully, I don’t know how frequently the urine remedy was used. I also don’t know if there was any significance to the boot. Was it a cowboy boot with special healing properties in the leather, or just a plain ol’ pair of rubber galoshes? Which brings to mind another question: did she have a pair saved just for that purpose, or was it the boots she wore on a regular basis? From what I’ve heard about this particular grandmother, they were probably combat boots.
I suppose you could do the same thing with a regular shoe. A ballerina flat or stylish pump would surely be just as effective, but I wouldn’t try using a flip-flop.
At the age of 26, I finally found the cure for my chronic ear infections — a doctor. Who would have guessed? He removed my tonsils and adenoids, inserted tubes in my ears, and voila. For 17 years I have been pain free.
Looking back on my childhood, I recall that the most comforting solution offered was the tender loving care of my mother. She soothed me with words of compassion and freshly-ironed washcloths. The heat from those warm, folded cloths prompted sleep and a temporary respite from the pain. It was always a relief to wake up in the morning with ears that were healing and boots that were dry.
Truitt is an author, speaker and mother of five. Find her on Facebook, Twitter (@GingerTruitt) and Pinterest, or visit http://www.gingertruitt.com.