In days of yore, my husband and I had an apartment. Whatever else you might say about high density urban dwellings, you have to admit they're never dull. The laundry room was always my favorite spot, because the drama revolving around that humid little room was generally ten times better than anything on television.
My favorite resident by far was a German immigrant, a grandmother who lived alone and who liked to talk about her grandchildren, her late husband, and her days working as a nurse in the hospital. Sometimes we talked about laundry ("here, try zis fabric freshener") or baking breads ("never srow avay ze vater from boiled potatoes, use for making ze dough"), but every once in a while, the conversation would hit the speed bump of Ludicrous and hang a sharp left toward Surreal.
I recall one wintery day in particular. The windows of the laundry room were fogged against the chill outside, Jack Frost clearly revealing an archive of four letter messages traced by grubby adolescent fingers. Karla and I were folding laundry inside when I mentioned that I wasn't sure what to get my grandmother for Christmas.
"Home enema kit."
I nearly dropped my socks. "Huh?"
"Yah, coffee is goot to relieve ze headache. Causes ze colon to release ze toxins. Simple to do at home. I used to giff warm, soapy water cleanses at ze hospital all ze time, and oh, ze relief it brought to ze patients." She then launched into an astonishing tale of a severely impacted man who released three buckets full of waste under her ministrations, then wept with gratitude.
At the time, I had simply lugged my whites home and shudderingly wrote a vow to myself (in stone, notarized) never to enter the medical profession. Ever. But this year, my father complained that my grandmother was sharing way too much information about her GI tract again, and that she was starting to get into home enemas.
The memory I had never managed to fully suppress floated back up (so to speak) and reluctantly, when no one else was at home, I did some browsing on the internet.
For starters, let me say that Googling "home enema kit" is a frightening adventure in and of itself, and that I will never again feel clean.
Next, let me say that my sense of reality was disturbed to find that there is a www.EnemaKit.com.
Thirdly, let me say that there really are such things as "enema recipes", and that shopping for them may very well have damaged my psyche permanently. Coffee enemas are a popular choice, as are beer or wine enemas and milk-and-honey formulas. Garlic, lemon juice, peppermint oil, basil, green tea, crushed ice, shark cartilage, and a recipe for -- I kid you not -- a Mountain Dew enema. It seems that there is an adventurous "health foods" component of the population who regards it as something of a challenge to prove that if it's good for you in one end, it's good for you via the other. ("Jimmy, you're not leaving the table until that broccoli enters your digestive tract, one way or the other!")
Many places listed the recipes but not what they were used for. This required a little more research. This was a gift for my poor, stopped up grandmother, after all. If I was going to send her a colon care package, I wanted to be sure a reputable source said it was healthy. Good thing I did. Apparently beer and wine applications were most popular among fraternities because it allows alcohol to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. In fact, one health goods site said frat initiation beer enemas accounted for a significant percentage of alcohol poisoning deaths.
How can you possibly be smart enough to pass a college entry exam and yet not have the mental wherewithal to decide it's probably a bad idea to let a passel of frat boys flood beer up your back end?
But that's beside the point. A trip to a trusted health foods store finally gave me the information I wanted without the web surfing trauma.
Karla was right. Coffee is the way to go. Preferably organic. And, if you will recall the successful lawsuit against McDonalds lo those many years ago, preferably the right temperature. It's reportedly great for easing headache pain, dumping liver toxins, and relieving all sorts of other aches and pains. And what the heck: Grandma got me a Cabbage Patch Doll back when that was what I was interested in. Who am I to pass judgment on her current hobby?
So after a little deliberation (regular or decaf?), I picked out some coffee and a well made home enema kit. My gift basket looked a little on the empty side. Well, it looked a lot on the disturbing side, too, but I was trying to get over that. I asked my dad what he thought might go with the ensemble to kind of round it out.
He gave me that long stare that said clearly he was the only sane one in the family, then gave me an honest answer. "Cookies. They can be the equipment she uses in case she decides to put coffee in the other end."
There you go. Merry Christmas, Grandma.
Comments and gift ideas for Grandma to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.