Abe Villarreal

(Photo: Courtesy photo)

I remember spending those long summer days at Nana and Tata's house, during the hot Arizona weekends in the 1990s. They put us to work, polished the bulky wooden furniture and meticulously cleaned the complicated cracks in their console Vintage stereo bigger than life.

The thing was huge. With two doors that opened in the center, the solid wood design was filled with curves and backed with a red velvet material. It was a sight worth seeing.

After a day of cleaning, I felt a headache on the horizon. After complaining to Nana, she cut a potato, stuck half on each side of my head and wrapped it in a damp towel.

Lying down and looking at the ceiling, all I could think about is how strange I should have looked at what was one of Nana's many methods of solving life's inconvenience. While I can't remember if my headache was gone with this healing spine, I remember feeling comforted by the security it gave me.

Because we have the power to search anything on Google and solve most things with a fast-acting medication, funny sound home remedies are becoming a lost art. Still, it seems that grandmothers had answers for almost anything, and in many cases they worked.

A couple of days ago, I told a friend to prepare a container with beer on his front porch. I was having an annoying cockroach problem. The next morning, a handful of drunk insects lay on their backs.

The only mistake he made was to use his wife's tortilla warmer, a sacrilege dish in a Mexican-American house.

Speaking of excessive drinking, did you know that Vicks VapoRub heals hangovers? It is true. Perhaps. Actually, for a Mexican, Vicks VapoRub is a wizard tool. It will eliminate dry skin, chapped lips, sore joints, cough, sneezing and colds.

The sensation of a mother's hand while rubbing the refreshing brush on her chest is a sensation that all children should experience.

I'm not sure science can prove this, but it is known that grandmothers eliminate the baby's hiccups with a piece of red thread.

I read somewhere that a penny on the forehead can stop a nosebleed.

Do these funky remedies work? If they do, it is because they are combined with a warm hug, a quiet prayer and the loving look of a grandmother or mother who cares enough for you and tries to do something to make you feel better.

I like home remedies because they teach us that our ancestors were thinkers. With few resources and much more imagination, they found answers when we needed them. Forget about the almost instantaneous need to go to an emergency room for the smallest problems. Our grandmothers showed us that when you can't afford a quick solution, you quickly fix a solution.

They also showed us their respect for their parents and the parents who came before, who have been transmitting traditions for generations.

The next time you have a little boy who feels sad, before going out through the pharmacy door, lie it down and look him in the eye. Keep it close and then take out the old Vicks Vaporub.

That time together can be all you need.

Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in southern New Mexico. He can be reached at [email protected]

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