Monday, October 17, 2011

Mr. Potato Head

Even a meatball knows that this tuber has about as much chance of curing an ailment as the New York Mets have of suiting up for games next October.

Ain't gonna happen.

Facts, however, never were a match for my mother. And I can prove it.

Her middle son, you see, suffered from excruciating, hellish, unbearable, utterly debilitating migraine headaches when he was very young. I know that they were excruciating and hellish and unbearable and debilitating because neither of my two brothers were themselves able to land the number-two spot in our parents' procreative three-pack.

One afternoon, when none of the medicines prescribed by the fancy head specialists on Eastern Parkway were working, mom decided to take matters into her own flour-dusted hands. (She had been in the middle of making her luscious homemade cavatelli for that night's supper.)

The scene, as they say, is etched in my brain. It was a bright, sunny day, way too bright for a migraine sufferer to bear. I was laying in bed, weeping and waiting for the medicines to do their work, even though it was clear to me that the medicines were not going to be doing their work today.

"Any better, hon?"

The wet kitchen towel draped over my eyes prevented me from getting a visual, but the concern in my mother's voice was unmistakable.

"I think I'm gonna throw up," I muttered, and then I did.

A short while later mom brought a baking tray into the room. On the tray was a crisp, very white cotton towel folded lengthways and in half.

"You've suffered enough," she said, sitting on the bed next to me. "This will make you better, I promise."

Quickly she unfolded the towel to reveal its contents.

"Close your eyes," mom told me, "and just be still."

"But ma," I said as incredulously as a young meatball could manage, "those are..."

With an index finger across my lips she gently pressed my head back onto the pillow where, she appeared quite certain, it belonged.

"I know what they are. Just do as I say now and close your eyes and be still."

Of course, this was an impossible directive.

I ask you, what if your own mother had come to your aid in an hour of extraordinary need — packing a goddamn kitchen towel filled with thickly sliced raw potatoes!

Would you be able to close your eyes and just be still?

And so, even in a compromised state, I managed to bully my poor mother into having to defend the kindness and concern she had showed toward me.

"We put the potatoes on your forehead and on your eyelids," she explained, patiently at first. "Then, when the potatoes turn dark you'll be all better."

"How does that make me better, ma?"

"It draws all of the poison out of you, that's how. The darkness is the poison. Inside of you it makes you feel sick, but inside the potato it just makes it black. Understand?"

This might be a good time for all of you parents out there to pour yourself a good stiff one, because I am about to lay bare an inner demon, evidenced in certain young people I am told, that can lay waste to the most loving and selfless of mothers.

"C'mon, ma," I said as sarcastically as I knew how. "After awhile won't the potatoes turn dark anyway, just because they've been out in the open?"

My mother scores major points for refraining from giving her middle figlio ingrato a good smack. As well as for proceeding with the potato-on-forehead-and-eyelids experiment that she so desperately prayed would make her child feel well again.

No, I am certainly not proud of myself, okay. 

As for the transfer of dark poisons from my body to a potato that day? 

Let's just say that the cavatelli that evening had a far more soothing effect. And that the Mets still aren't going to be playing any baseball next October.


Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

As a youth, I had a wart on my ring finger. One day my grandpa found a piece of wood, rubbed it on the wart, buried it and said, "When this wood is rotten, the wart will be gone." At it was. And it never came back.

At junior high age, I had an ingrown toenail. My grandma wrapped it in a piece of bacon with lots of fat. She said, "Leave this on all night and it'll draw out the infection," and it did.

Who's to say why these things worked. Perhaps just a healing and genuine dose of love?

Next time I get a headache, I'm reaching for the potatoes. I'll keep you posted.

Claudia said...

Potatoes absorb salt. Now if the source of the migraines were salt, it would have worked. (And if a cat washes his face it will rain and if your palm is itchy you will get mail.)

Anonymous said...

Your mamma was desperate to help you get rid of the migraines..She did it with love, that's what all mammas do..Hope you don't get them anymore..just saying! Love your blog, made your meatballs oh, my goodness did they come out great, used only beef, no pork, no veal still better than any I have made in almost 40 years of marriage, I think the bread with the water, not torn to shreds helped a lot, spices, egg and gently forming them, frying in olive oil gently and simmering forever did the trick..keep up the great real recipes..ciao

Anonymous said...

this reminds me of the "fascina" by grandmother used to remove our headaches: and old calabrese cure: obtain object belonging to the owner (wallet, etc) and she sits off to the side and murmurs the spell - if you yawn - you got it

potato - my wife is New Orleans Creole - her grandma used potatoes to put the hoodoo on people she didn't like - part of it was burying them in the backyard

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I am a migraine sufferer and I will try anything. So you know I am planning to try this out next time I get one. Now I'm off to the store to buy some spuds.