Sharing Mana‘o

Every cloud has a silver lining. That was one of the first adages my mother explained to me, and one that she truly believed. By example, Mom raised me to be positive, yet practical.

My late husband, on the other hand, was fond of saying, “Beware of silver linings; there’s a dark cloud behind each one.” He was both amused and annoyed by what he called my Pollyanna disposition. “You don’t need rose-colored glasses,” he’d say, “you’ve got rose-colored vision.”

He was right about that; I am an eternal optimist, thanks to Mom. Even after falling victim to that respiratory crud that is going around, my mood has remained sunny. The silver lining in the current cloud of chest congestion and sinus drip has been the concern and contributions of good friends, with the added bonus of warm childhood memories.

My best friend Robbie called to tell me that her husband wanted to give me a sample of his longtime go-to remedy, a balm called Sun Breeze. It’s like Vicks VapoRub on steroids. Besides smearing it on my chest and neck, Ed suggested rubbing a tiny bit between my palms, then cupping my hands over my nose and mouth to inhale the menthol vapor. Sure enough, it cleared my sinuses, at least temporarily.

The best part was falling asleep each night enveloped in penetrating heat and memories of Mom’s soothing voice. Whenever I had a cold, she’d put me to bed with a generous layer of Vicks on my chest, under soft flannel PJs, then turn me on my side so she could rub my back while telling me I’d feel better in the morning. The only junk part was when the cold included nasal congestion and she’d stick a Vicks-coated finger into my nostrils. I like Ed’s noninvasive technique a lot better.

When my voice began disappearing last week, Willie K’s wife, Debbie, recommended two types of ginger-honey tea that her husband has been using at gigs. One is a Korean concoction loaded with shredded ginger. It looks like a big jar of marmalade and is just as sweet. The other, Prince of Peace Ginger Honey Crystals, comes in packets and is much more ginger-intense. Both are delightful to smell and taste when mixed with hot water.

Munching on the ginger bits at the bottom of my teacup reminded me of the old Vineyard Candy Store in Wailuku, where Mom would take me to get wet li hing mui, olive cake, baby seed and, of course, red shredded ginger. Thinking about the rows of confectionery jars filled with preserved fruits got me reminiscing about unauthorized trips to TK Supermarket. Sometimes (OK, often), we’d sneak off campus and drive from Baldwin High to Happy Valley for TK’s giant pickled peaches and other snacks. I loved the little red homemade pickled peaches, still do, but these were in a class by themselves, and I’ve never seen them anywhere else. I remember them being bright green and nearly as big as my fist, crunchy and tangy-sweet.

Topping off my crack-seed reverie, Robbie delivered a Ziploc baggie full of her Chinese-style salted lemons. She’s the only one I know who still makes them regularly, and it always makes me smile when I visit her house and see the gallon-size glass jars, full of yellow-brown fruit, curing on her sunny patio. It reminds me of the good old days when it seemed like every neighbor had a jar like that, perched on top of their roof eaves.

As I write these words, I have a steaming cup of ginger-honey tea, with a salty lemon at the bottom, sitting next to my computer screen. Sucking on the saturated lemon will be my reward for finishing this column. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Mom was right, as she almost always is. Thanks to her and my precious friends, this particular cloud of illness came with silver linings and golden memories.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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