For the record, hanging your head over a bowl of boiling, eucalyptus-scented water in the hopes of clearing your sinuses is nothing like a sauna. Saunas involve handsome Finnish farmhands, in the nude, and alcohol and obliging fields through which to go streaking. I know this because a few years ago, I went to Finland, and Finland is the motherland of all saunas (mainly because there isn’t much else to do on the arctic tundra). The way I see it, if there’s anyone in the Richter household who knows what comprises a bone fide sauna and what does not, it’s me, and this sorry concoction of essential oils does not.
Nonetheless, I’m at my wits end—it’s my second sinus infection in three weeks and I feel like my brain is slowing leaking out through my eye sockets. I can’t think straight, I can’t see straight, and to make matters worse, I can’t even blog about my sorry state because every time I sit down at the computer, my eyes start to water (I’m writing this entry at five-minute intervals as it is).
I’ve tried every vitamin, tea, cough medicine and homeopathic remedy known to man (including the ancient Indian technique of oil pulling which usually works for me, even if its garnered the occasional odd look from my roommates over the years) but nothing beats the strength of my germ-wielding preschoolers, even though I have tissue boxes strategically placed throughout the dance studio where I teach at three foot intervals.
And so, when my mother hands me a towel and says, “Just try it,” I do. But first I take the opportunity to toss a quick, cursory remark over my shoulder.
“Just so you know,” I inform my parents, “this is nothing like a sauna.”
“Of course it is,” my mother insists.
“No, it’s not,” I sputter through the steam. “There are no cute men in here.”
“I beg to differ,” my father calls across the room. “At least I’m sure your mother would beg to differ.”
After scalding the first, second and possibly even third layers of my epidermis (which I’m pretty sure is scientifically possible) I do start to feel a little bit better. Because I have the emotional maturity of an eight year old when I’m sick, however, I hate it when my mother’s remedies actually work and as such, I take it upon myself to whip up a second batch of sauna-water on my own.
I stumble over to her basket of essential oils and select my favorite three: eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint. This selection, I should note, is based not on my knowledge of medicinal herbs (as was my mother’s) but rather on my love of lavender massage oil and Orbit gum, and my reluctant acknowledgment that Vicks Vaporub really does work, even if I’ve always hated the smell of eucalyptus.
I boil a few cups of water and prepare my concoction. Three seconds later, I’m running across the living room simultaneously hacking up my lungs and trying to claw my own eyes out. Evidently peppermint does not a good sauna make.