I got banged up a lot when I was little. Not as bad as Willie, though, who sat next to me in class and ate his scabs. I was beginning to think he wrecked his bike on purpose just so he would have something to eat for lunch. And I would sit there and watch him. Fascinating, really. But, I, for one, managed to have different kinds of injuries, mainly from splinters.
I could sleep in bed and wake up with a splinter. Well, not really, but that’s how easy it was for me to get one. And my sadistic mom really didn’t have a problem with digging them out.
It was a medical procedure that my mom got used to. She would round up all the necessary players in this dysfunctional stage performance. She would retrieve her magnifying class that she used to tweeze stuff off of her face most evenings. She would get the tweezers that I never saw her alcohol before using, so I am sure there were stray chin hairs on them. Blah. That was phase one.
Then she had to find my finger. She would sit me down at the kitchen table, in front of her mobile laboratory, and would take my little bony appendage and I would grab it back. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
“Vickie, it really went in there this time. I can’t use the tweezers.”
Shit. I know what that meant.
It was needle time.
“Vickie, go downstairs and get my sewing basket. It is right beside the sewing machine.”
Five minutes later….
“Vickie?……………Vickie?…………..Vickie!!……Come on. Get up here.”
My mom grabbed my finger…. Retreat…. Repeat….. Retreat….. Repeat. Finally, I relented because I wanted to get back outside to play and get another freaking splinter.
Back in the sixties, people would turn on the gas on their stoves and heat the needle to sterilize it. Great. A hot poker applied to my skin. But, my mom was progressive, because she was lazy, and just ran it under hot water. Afterall, how many germs could a needle in a sewing kit be carrying?
After digging to China and then grabbing it with her chin hair-laden tweezers, the little bugger was out of my finger.
Um, not so fast. My mom wasn’t done yet.
“Vickie, go get the Metholaide.”
Shit………SHIT……..OH SHIT….Oh Dear God, not the red stuff!
In our house, we called the Mercurochrome, Metholaide. While doing research on its history for this blog post, I found that the correct spelling is “merthiolate” or “Mercurochrome” as it was advertised in the early sixties.
Mercurochrome was a very thin liquid that was painted on the skin with an effect that followed us around: a reddish orange chemical laden with mercury. Hence, the name, MERCURochrome….. Great.
Every kid in the neighborhood during the sixties wore Mercurochrome. It was an antiseptic that was used for scrapes, scratches, and splinters. When applied, it burned worse than the alcohol that my mom would put on the wound BEFORE the Mercurochrome. I should back up, because there was a certain protocol for splinter removal:
Magnify, removal, peroxide, alcohol, and then Mercurochrome.
The peroxide would bubble, the alcohol would sting and the Mercurochrome would make me cry. Some of the older boys who were allowed to apply their own Mercurochrome had large areas painted. They wore it like a badge of courage. How macho. No, really. We thought they were macho.
“Oh, my gosh, did you see Randy’s leg? He wrecked his bike last night. It looks awful.”
The compound in this painful brown bottle held a derivative of mercury, a dye which gave it its lovely red color. From what I have read, mercury was very popular during the 1920′s, and was found in many other medications.
Mercurochrome was used without question until the FDA began looking into the pretty colored compound and decided that mercury was not really something that we should be putting in or own our bodies. I forgot to mention that we would also get a Q-tip and put some Mercurochrome on an ulcer on the inside of our mouth. Yes, baby boomers, we are full of mercury. I guess mercury doesn’t leave the body once it gets in there. It is stored in our fatty tissue. Fun times.
We are walking thermometers. Go ahead, as me what the temperature is.
It wasn’t until the late eighties that the FDA re-classified the red wonder in a bottle as “untested,” meaning that if anyone wanted to sell it in this country had to go through hoops to get it on the market. So, that was the end of Mercurochrome.
As I sit here, in 2012, I’ve got to wonder why the mercury stored in my fatty tissue is not eating that fatty tissue?
I mean, work with me here.