I Need Spring Tonic

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I was a skinny, unattractive child who looked like I had rickets and was an embarrassment to my mother. She was a proud woman and didn’t like the conclusions people might draw looking at my toothpick-thin, bowlegged little body. Maybe I was starved by my family; maybe I was abused. worst of all: maybe my family couldn’t afford to feed me properly.

I was a picky eater and my dislikes would appear at a moment’s notice. I might have liked grilled cheese sandwiches yesterday, but today I couldn’t abide them. This was in the fifties when there was no such thing as Health Food or Organic Food. Our cupboard contained Wonder Bread, Kraft fake Cheese, sugary peanut butter and bottled spaghetti sauce and salad dressing. I didn’t like any of it, and could go without eating for days at a time. I was allergic to oranges and chocolate, so orange juice and chocolate milk were out. To make me drink whole milk, my mother doctored it up with super sweet strawberry syrup, which didn’t help much. A typical meal for me would be a sandwich of white bread and mayo or spaghetti with ketchup.

To make me healthier, my mother forced me to swallow spoons full of Spring Tonic every morning. I assume the tonic was a multi-vitamin and good for me, but I fought every day to avoid it. The taste was unbelievable. It didn’t taste like Spring at all, but lasted more like the sole of a shoe. Just thinking about the tonic makes my stomach flip, but I must credit it with saving me from starvation, as I survived and made it to adulthood.

Later when I was a young adult I decided for some reason to become a vegetarian. My ex-husband and I and our three children were vegetarians for years. After thirty years of tofu and brown rice, I started to experience problems with digestion. I went to a Naturopath for help. She looked at me and said, “You look like a vegetarian!”

“Thanks!” I answered.

“That wasn’t a compliment,” she said soberly. “You are all puny and pale. What’s wrong with you?”

I started to describe my problems with digestion and she cut me off. “No! I mean why are you a vegetarian?”

“Um….because it’s healthy?”

“Not for you it isn’t. Just look at you. You look pitiful.”

I flashed back to my childhood and my mother’s shame. “But what should I do?” I glanced down at my pale, skinny arms.

“Eat meat! You have to get more B-12 and amino acids.” She sent me off with some foul-tasting tonics and orders to change my diet. And I recovered.

What makes me think about all this is that I am feeling puny and pale again, but I eat meat and everything else I can grab. I need a tonic!!

Maybe it’s the weather. It’s cold!! I never have on enough clothing no matter how many layers I pile on.  Then without warning we get a perfect Spring day and all I want to do is stretch out on the pavement in front of the shop to soak up the warmth. Just as I begin to think Spring is here, the wind picks up and a cold front moves back in. We are on a weather roller coaster.

Maybe it’s just the winter doldrums. Business is slow and I hate inactivity. Lucky for me, Sassafras Coffee Shop and Bookstore just opened across the street, so I can crawl over there for another hit of strong coffee whenever I am dragging. Any suggestions for something I can drink that might perk me up that doesn’t involve more coffee?