But ARE they old wive's tales ...?
I woke up with a nasty cold this morning. My throat feels raw and scratchy, and it hurts to talk. As usual when I have a cold, besides chicken noodle soup, I think of the old wive's tale about a cold. I never can remember, though, whether it's "feed a cold, starve a fever" or "starve a cold, feed a fever" ...
I remember when I was a child, my sibs and I used to hate getting colds, especially when Grandma Parrish was visiting. Filled with of the best of intentions and love, as soon as she got an inkling one of us was coming down with a cold, she would grab the jar of Vicks and head for our room. The Vicks was slathered on our chest and back, a dab under our nose on that little divot between your nose and mouth, and then rubbed on a hanky so we could breathe it in every time we blew our nose. As much as I hated the smell of Vicks (still do), I have to admit, I did sleep better because I could breathe through my nose.
In spite of the Vicks, I do miss Grandma. She could tell me exactly how the cold saying went. She had a lot more old wive's tales, too. She could look out the kitchen window and watch the leaves on the trees turning backwards in the wind and say with certainty it was going to rain ... and it did. If someone dropped a piece of silverware, Grandma would say, "Somebody's coming," and sure enough, someone would. For good luck, she would "knock wood" ... especially if she made a statement that something was going to happen and she didn't want to jinx it.
Oh, and clouds were always a favorite with Grandma. She would look up at the sky and announce, "Mackerel scales and mares' tales, sailors carry low sails". She said that meant it would rain within twenty-four hours. Again, she was usually right. Another was, "Red skies at night, a sailor's delight. Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning". To this day, when I see red skies in the morning, I look for it to rain or storm within the next twenty-four hours.
When I was about ten, Grandma and I were sitting on the porch swing rocking on the front porch at dusk. She pointed into the sky, right at the first star and said, "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight". Then we would both send our wishes out into the night sky.
Whether the wishes on a star will come true is anyone's guess, but it's an old wive's tale that I've passed along to my own children and grandchildren. Funny thing is, I remember a few years ago being with my grandson, Liam, on his front lawn the evening we all found out that his mommy was having another baby, a fourth. Liam and I had made our wishes and we were sitting in the grass just enjoying the silence, when Liam asked, "Gram, do you know what I wished?" I told him, "No". Liam went on to say, "I wished that mommy would have a girl." (Liam was the oldest of three boys). Months later, mommy had a girl ... go figure.
Grandma had a plaque on the wall by the front door. When I went to her house, I would read it over and over to myself. In my child's imagination, I would try and apply it to my world. It wasn't until years later that it actually made sense to me.
Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
or do without.
I suppose it could be applied to just about anything, but the important thing is, they're words to live by in a throw-away society like ours has become.
All said and done, are old wive's tales actually "tales" at all? Seems to me, most of them actually have some merit and most of them even work. Now, if I could just remember how that damned cold saying goes ...