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The Potion

When we were little, my brother and I dreaded falling ill. Not because of the fever that gave us chills or the cough that made our ribs hurt or a million visits to the bathroom that left us dehydrated.

All that was manageable.

The thing that scared us the most was our mom showing up with a cup of that refused to go down our throats, activated our gag reflexes, and lingered on our taste buds forever. She, on the other hand, believed it was the cure for every malady.

As luck would have it, I married into a family where the new matriarch had her own version of the potion and she was equally happy to conjure it up at the first sign of trouble. Sickness in their presence meant the grand ladies standing over us several times a day and waiting until we chugged the sludge.

It took five decades and a pandemic to take the potion willingly.

The recipe calls for turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and honey to be mixed in water, slow cooked into a thick solution, and then cooled.

Turmeric is a proven anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. In India, an ankle sprain or broken bone means the injured limb is generously lathered with turmeric paste to reduce the inflammation. We marinate fish and meat in hefty amounts of turmeric to kill the germs and we infuse every dish with the spice. No surprise our kitchens are basically yellow.

Ginger is a close cousin of the turmeric root and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It's used in India for nausea, upset stomach, and colds. It is said to help with weight loss, lower cholesterol and relieve chronic indigestion. Ginger tea is the go-to remedy in our house if we excessively sneeze, burp, feel warm or ache.

Black pepper is also high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. The stews in our kitchen have an abundant helping of peppercorns for good reason.

Honey is rich in antioxidants, suppresses cough, reduces cholesterol, and improves overall heart health.

In summary, it is two things that taste like burning rubber, one that is fiery, and a dash of sweet that spectacularly fails to offset the madness. Heinousness rooted in science. What a conundrum.

Fast forward to the pandemic.

Covid is an inflammatory disease at its core and the maternal potions made fleeting appearances in my dreams when we began to isolate. When my dear friend told me that she and her husband do the potion several times a week, it gave me pause. Knowing that the second dose of the vaccine had felled our boys, I grudgingly agreed to gulp the potion to combat the side effects. Tarun was none too thrilled but he is a good sport and went along.

We did the potion regularly before Tarun's second dose and we were grateful that he had a mild reaction. In the gap between our shots, I forgot to do it (really, I swear!) and the second dose sucker punched me.

I have no statistical proof on the potion’s efficacy, but I can feel my MIL wagging her index finger at me going, "You should have!”

Now that I have taken it willingly, I know I am headed for a new reality as I grow older. Even though it will never be a favorite, I am going to hover over my kids, like a demon, next time they are sick. The potion in my hands will confront the dread in their eyes because I am the proud sum of my two wise mothers.

Besides, I kinda like the thought of delivering “heinous” to my kids :)

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