I never knew why and neither did my friends. None of them had radiators because they had nicer houses. They had something called forced air, which sounded vaguely scary to us. The Flying Scottolines never forced anything, especially something you needed to breathe.
And in the summer, those same people had central air, which was something else we didn't have. Our air lacked centralization. The only central thing in our house was Mother Mary, and that was how she liked it.
But back to the do-it-yourself humidifiers, which sat like an open-air fishbowl on every radiator. As I child, I understood that this would cure something dreadful called Dry Air, which we had in spades. I didn't really understand why Uncle Mikey had to move to Arizona for the Dry Air when he could've just moved to our house. Be that as it may, I was grateful that I had an all-knowing mother who understood that air came in forced, central, and dry and that everything could be cured by Pyrex.
The only time this was problem was on Sundays when Mother Mary actually wanted to bake ziti or eggplant parm, and there were no dishes available except for the ones cooking water on the radiators. She would dispatch me to get a Pyrex dish off the radiator and wash it out, and I would do so happily, if the end result was eggplant parm.
I will still do anything for eggplant parm.
Make a note, should we meet.
But back to the story, cleaning the baking dishes was a yucky job. Often the water in the dishes would have dried up, leaving a scummy residue, and even if there was some water left, it wasn't a pretty sight. Dog and cat hair would be floating on the surface, or ash from a passing cigarette.
According to Mother Mary, smoking was fine for air quality.
You win some, you lose some.
So fast-forward to when I become a mother myself, and baby Francesca gets sick, and of course Mother Mary advocates Vicks and Pyrex, but I reject these ideas as old-fashioned. I am Modern.
I had that kid so pumped up with amoxicillin she could've grown mold. In fact, I had her on them prophylactically, so she'd never get another ear infection, and if I could have her on them now, I would, so she'd never get pregnant.
It's a joke, OK?
But then recently, I got the worst cold ever, and I called the doctor, who told me that antibiotics weren't such a hot idea and what I really needed was Vicks VapoRub and a dehumidifier. I couldn't believe my ears. I wanted the magic pill to make it all better, but he says that it's a virus and all that, and no.
I didn't tell this to Mother Mary, and don't you, either.
I supposed I could just get a Pyrex dish and put it on the radiator, but I am still Modern and I refuse. Also, the doctor says I need a cool-mist dehumidifier and not a warm-mist dehumidifier, and once again, I feel lucky to learn more about the mysteries of air, which now comes in mist.
Who knew oxygen could be so complicated?
So I go to the drug store, buy the requisite cool-mist dehumidifier, and bring it home. I spend exactly one night with this thing and want to shoot myself. It's 30 degrees outside, and in my bedroom, it's 20. An arctic chill blasts from the cool-mist dehumidifier, and I'm up all night.
So I go back to the drugstore and buy a warm-mist dehumidifier. I take it home, and it frizzes my hair, but you can't have everything. Also, it comes with a little slot for a stick that's impregnated with Vicks VapoRub, and you know what I'm thinking.
This is the revenge of Mother Mary.
And if the Vicks had stayed on the amoxicillin prophylactically, it wouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place.
Lisa Scottoline's new novel, "Come Home," will be published April 10. Lisa and Francesca Serritella's book, "Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter," is in bookstores now. Visit Lisa at scottoline.com.