By Abe Villarreal
I remember spending those long summer days at nana and tata's house, during hot, Arizona weekends in the 1990s. They put us to work, shining the bulky wooden furniture, and meticulously cleaning the complicated crevices of their bigger than life, vintage stereo console.
The thing was huge. With two doors that opened in the middle, the solid wood design was filled with curves and backed by red velvet material. It was a sight to see.
After a day of cleaning, I sensed a headache on the horizon. After complaining to nana, she cut up a potato, stuck one-half on each side of my head and wrapped it with a wet towel.
Lying down and looking up at the ceiling, all I could think of is how strange I must have looked in what was one of nana's many methods to fix life's discomforts. While I can't remember if my headache was gone with this spud of a cure, I do remember feeling comforted by the assurance that she gave me.
Because we have the power to Google anything and solve most things with a fast-acting drug, funny sounding homemade remedies are becoming a lost art. Still, it seems that grandmas had answers for almost anything, and in many cases, they worked.
A couple of days ago, I told a friend to lay out a container with beer on his front porch. He was having an annoying cockroach problem. The next morning, a handful of the drunken insects were lying on their backsides.
The only mistake he made was using his wife's tortilla warmer, a sacred dish in a Mexican-American household.
Speaking of overdrinking, did you know that Vicks VapoRub cures hangovers? It's true. Maybe. Actually, to a Mexican, Vicks VapoRub is a magician's tool. It will eliminate dry skin, chapped lips, achy joints, coughs, sneezes, and colds.
The feeling of a mother's hand as she rubs the cooling rub on your chest is a feeling every child should experience.
I'm not sure science can prove this one, but abuelas have been known to eliminate baby hiccups with a piece of red yarn.
I read somewhere that a penny on a forehead can stop a nosebleed.
Do these funky remedies work? If they do, it's because they are combined with a warm hug, a quiet prayer, and the loving look of an abuela or mom who cares enough for you to try anything to make you feel better.
I like homemade remedies because they teach us that our ancestors were thinkers. With little resources and much more imagination, they found answers when we needed them. Forget the almost instant need to head to an emergency room for the smallest of problems. Our grandmothers showed us that when you can't afford a quick fix, you quickly fix up a solution.
They also showed us their respect to their parents and the parents who came before, who have been passing down traditions for generations.
Next time you have a little one that's feeling blue, before you head out the door to the pharmacy, lay him down and look him in his eyes. Hold him close and then whip out the old Vicks Vaporub.
That time together may be all that he needs.
Abe Villarreal is the Director of Communications at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on marketing, life, people and American traditions.