Juicy juxtaposition: A Communist Tea Party

With almost seven weeks before moving day — assuming the house inspection and other details go as smoothly as the other aspects of our successful house-shopping — I’ve got a little time to pack my books in an orderly fashion. As I separated fiction, non-fiction, humorous, reference, collector, writer’s library and other categories, I’m arranging each group alphabetically by author.

My non-fiction arranging put “Palin, Sarah” (America By Heart) right next to “Marx, Karl” (The Communist Manifesto). Perhaps Mr. Marx belongs in my reference section; certainly there are many who would suggest the Mrs. Palin belongs in my fiction section. I think it simply proves literary diversity and breadth of thought. (Yeah, I’m being a little sarcastic there).

karl sarah

A couple of days ago Kelly and I caught an episode of “Hoarders” where a book-collecting couple had an estimated 45 tons of books in their house. Kelly pointed out what I knew she was thinking: that might have been me if not for marrying her. I don’t know that I would have amassed several tons of books if not kept in check by my patient, tolerant, grace-filled spouse, but I have trimmed the collection considerably over the years. The fact that she bought me a few books for Christmas seems proof that my collection is now manageable.

I’ve got a lot of reference books and quite an assortment of humorous reference: Why Does Popcorn Pop?, Do Fish Drink Water?, etc. I’ve also got some collectible, historical reference, including a two-volume student’s cyclopedia from 1897. I’m fascinated with seeing what we used to think we knew before we found out that we knew everything. I’m talking about pre-Internet times, of course, and pre-World War era America, when our country tried to live as a country unto itself.

My two favorite collectibles are “Qheen of the Home” and “Practical Housekeeping,” copyright 1901 and 1885, respectively. “Queen of the Home” is “a careful compilation of tried and approved recipes by the Ladies of the Christian Church of Carterville, Mo.” (Southwest Missouri, near Joplin).

From the “Miscellaneous” section of “home remedies,” I give you this:

“Mutton Tea – Mutton tea may be prepared in the same manner as beef tea. It makes an agreeable change when the patient has become tired of beef tea.”

I’ll just let those words linger on the screen as you provide your own commentary. Three entries later, there’s “Raw Beef For Children.” Treatment for dysentery.

Again, I’ll let those words linger there on the screen, time enough for you to shake your head as you ponder why dysentery might have been a problem in the first place.

“Practical Housekeeping” is nearly 700 pages. Castor oil was the remedy for just about everything, including scarlet fever. “Keep the bowels open with castor oil, grease the throat, breast, and back with pig’s-feet oil, goose grease, lard, or smoked ham rinds, or the fryings of salt pork or bacon. Greasy very thoroughly.”

Smothered with bacon! Now that’s a home remedy I’m willing to try next time I’m ailing.

Finally, admonitions for children playing out-of-doors: children less than 4 ought not to play out-of-doors when the thermometer is lower than 25 degrees,” and when the young-uns are playing outside they must play on the sunny side of the yard or street. Failure to keep feet warm or ears and neck protected from the chill can lead to “catching” a cold. When they come back indoors, they’ll need a bath, of course, so there’s also ample bathing instructions, summed up thusly: “Children should never be washed in a careless, slipshod manner.”

Hmmm. Somehow I started out talking about Marx and Palin, then got sidetracked with 138-year-old instructions on how to stay healthy, clean and practical. (Castor oil).

I suppose I simply find many, many things far more interesting than a Communist Tea Party.

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