Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grandma's Soap Secret

Early portrait of Elizabeth Wleklinski Oberlander, 1960s

My maternal grandmother died in 1998. From the time I was a year old she was my “mother” and her influence in my life, the lessons she taught me and the things I learned from her are ingrained in my life to this day. Although she is gone her ways continue on in those of us that were listening and watching, who take the time to repeat what she taught, and continue to pass on what we learned to those that are coming after us.

This past week was one of those moments where I felt as though my grandmother had taken over my body and mind and through me passed on the wisdom she was so great at imparting. My youngest grandson, Noble, age 8 weeks was constipated. He is a fussy little baby and we are trying all sorts of things to try and cure him. One of those methods is to incorporate Similac infant formula into his diet, supplementing his mother’s breast milk. As a staunch breastfeeding advocate I am surprised at my willingness to supplement with formula, but Noble is a challenge that requires the testing of all things that might work. It helped I think, giving him a full belly that allowed him to sleep more restfully. The problem with this artificial stuff is the side effects and constipation is one of them.

I suggested a remedy to my daughter, one that I learned from my grandmother years ago when my own daughter was constipated. She told me to cut a sliver of soap and use it as a suppository on the baby. I was appalled! I balked at the idea and just like my own child did, I refused until the baby’s discomfort persuaded me to rethink my stand. Her idea worked and I always remembered the wisdom of my grandmother’s home remedy.

It was going on two days since Noble had a bowel movement and finally Adrian agreed to let me try. I took the little one into the bathroom. I laid him on the table on his tummy. I sliced the smallest piece of Ivory soap and placed it in his little tush. He screamed bloody murder, but then again that is Noble’s normal way of communicating his feelings. I put a diaper on him and held him upright against my chest with his feet on my palm. Within minutes his face contorted in effort, he turned red, grunted several times and viola! he pooped. I called Adrian, who had at first refused to watch, not wanting to see her baby in distress, and together we watched Noble relieve himself of the bad stuff clogging up his system.

Four diapers later and he was cleaned out. He nursed heartily then slept peacefully for two hours. My daughter thanked me as I am sure I did when I followed my grandmother’s advice.

This was an incident where my grandmother was foremost on my mind as I performed a remedy that is required only on occasion, but I know that in my daily life her teaching is with me always. It is with me as I work in the kitchen making meals. Like her I rarely use a recipe book; rather I put a pinch of this and that, I experiment with what sounds good and almost every time what I make is delicious. She is with me in the garden as I look on my blooms with satisfaction. Her admonitions come pouring out of my mouth when I say the Polish translation of “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”

My grandmother is a decade gone but only in the physical sense; she lives on in the forty-some years she had to teach me her ways. Her legacy will continue on as the memory of me, soap, and Noble’s relief one day in the year 2010 is recalled some forty-odd years down the road. Traditions are meant to be carried on and I am grateful I had someone in my life to teach me theirs. Thank you, “Mom.”

Grandmother with my two daughters, Erin and Adrian (Long Island, NY, 1982)

Bonding with Erin (age 2 months)

Giving Erin her first taste of meat!  I wasn't happy about it at the time, but she knew best.


Vegas Linda Lou said...

I think our grandmothers had the best remedies--and the cheapest!

Butterflyfoot said...

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