Having gone through the Great Depression, my grandmother knew what really mattered in life and lived accordingly. Thrifty and practical, she had a panacea for anything that ailed us. This usually came in a little yellow box. A standing family joke was to give Grandma a year’s supply of those little yellow boxes, and she would be happy . . .
Grandma said that Mother’s first word was “yellow”, although it sounded more like “oh” until she could master the “y” and the “l”. My mother insists that their bathroom medicine cabinet held two things: her daddy’s straight razor and six yellow boxes of sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda.
Frugal to a fault, Grandmother had no patience for spending money on frivolous folderols, when baking soda worked just as well, or better.
“Frankly, Grandma, it looks like cleaning your teeth with sand to me,” I complained during a visit.
“Frankly, my dear, I thought having metal pieces clamped on your teeth would have prepared you for anything,” she retorted.
I gritted my teeth and brushed them with the baking soda.
“That wasn’t as bad as drinking the stuff in hot water when I had an upset stomach to make me throw up,” I admitted.
One never knew what odd notions my grandmother would get for that yellow box of “sand”. I vividly remember an incident when I was a young teen, a traumatic experience for all concerned. I was using my school home economics class recipe for no-bake cookies with a girlfriend and forgot to turn off the stove burner. A startled scream from the kitchen and the smell of acrid smoke brought us running.
I yelled, panicking as flames shot up over the saucepan, “I’m calling the fire department!”
I thought Grandma had taken leave of her senses when she ran to the bathroom and grabbed one of her yellow boxes!
“Grams, this is no time for brushing your teeth!”
I watched, as in slow motion, my grandmother flinging the box contents in one wide sweep over the stovetop. The flames dissolved into a pile of ashes, like the wicked witch of the west when she was doused with water by the scarecrow.
“Never mind,” I mumbled to the operator, “false alarm.”
Now, I have to be honest. That baking powder really did the trick, and, as an extra bonus, the ashes cleaned up real good, giving that stove the shiniest, cleanest surface I had seen in a long time. Afterward, Grandma filled the charred cookie massed pan with water and another box of baking soda. The next day, the glistening pan was back in the orderly cupboard, as good as new. I became more perceptive whenever she had a yellow box of baking soda in tow. Kool-aid kitchen counter stains, laundry stains, the standard refrigerator deodorizer when Grandpa brought home his netted fish, even freshening up the vacuum cleaner bag! And her idea of filling a pair of my socks’ toes with the dry powder and stuffing them into my gym shoes overnight was an improvement that the whole family appreciated.
Her crowning achievement was the summer vacation I contracted a serious case of poison ivy while weeding out in back of Grandpa’s tool shed.
“Not the yellow box, AGAIN,” I complained, itchy and miserable, “Hey, that actually feels a little better, Grams! Can you put it—ah, right there! Oooh! Wonderful!”
I developed a deep respect for the little yellow boxes of baking soda. As the years progressed, I found that: putting baking soda paste on my son’s splintery foot overnight made the extraction painless . . . Blocked sink drains, liberally packed with baking soda followed by a couple quarts of boiling water eliminate a plumber’s visit . . . It’s great for a foot scrub and a bathtub soak for rashes and is a refreshing face scrub emollient.
Grandma’s gone to her eternal reward now, and it’s my turn for little yellow boxes of baking soda under the kitchen sink, in the bathrooms, in the laundry room and, of course, in the kitchen cupboard for baking—a side benefit.
My son was preparing for a “hot date” last year when he discovered we were out of mouthwash AND breath mints.
“Mom, not the baking soda AGAIN!”
His date that night resulted in a precious new daughter-in-law several months later.
“His first kiss was so refreshing and sweet, I could have eaten him up!”
Baking Soda Kisses. Hmmm. Sounds like a good novel.
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