Lice Capades

The muse works in mysterious ways.  Today’s guest post comes to you via my wife, Andy, inspired by creatures greatly small…

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Summer was going swimmingly. No triple digit days. The boys getting along well, with just an occasional, basic skirmish. Lots of down time. Great reading.

One evening in late July we had a dinner party al fresco. In between bites of bruschetta (our tomato plants were high yield) and Penne with Pesto (ditto, our basil), a friend with a teenage daughter who had just returned from a two-week trip to a rural village in Argentina to assist in an orphanage (did I mention she’s the daughter I always wanted?) mentioned she was thankful her raven-haired beauty hadn’t returned with head lice. Another friend chimed in that her lovely, gold-locked 15-year-old had the dreaded beasts at least five times. With a compassionate smirk and crossed fingers, I commented that I was likely above and beyond that scourge. With a house of boys to men, I would never hear, “There was the cutest hat at Forever 21!,” or “We laid out all the pillows on the living room floor and all 20 of us slept there!”

I woke early the next day for our annual car trip to Northern California. Alas, the nape of my neck was burning; I was on fire with itch. Oh, I’m so somatic, so suggestible!  Head and Shoulders would do the trick. And did, for a few hours. When we arrived in San Francisco I summoned Bruce with his reading glasses, “Would you look at my scalp? The itch is making me crazy! Something alive is on me!” “That’s one of the things I love about you! Your paranoia!,” and he dismissed the notion of bugs after examining a few strands of hair. So, I went on to enjoy our three days in San Francisco. Its cool weather soothed my tormented head.

Inverness was another story. There I actually found a bug. But we had walked in the woods. Logically, a bug simply found refuge in my mega-hair. But, then the next day, more. “These are bugs, right?” “Ah, yes. Those are bugs,” Bruce admitted. And into the night he fled, a quest for the House of Rid.

When he returned with the goods, I laid out a white sheet on the bathroom floor, prepared a bed of tissues to clean the lice comb, undressed and leaned my tousled, troubled head over. I combed methodically, strand by stand, into the night until my scalp bled. If anyone had seen me in that pitiful state they would have thought I was preparing for some strange pagan ritual and that I’d surely gone mad. And when I slipped into bed, late, late, I thought I had.

The morning dawned, unclean, unfresh, and I repeated the ritual. After showering I presented a hopeful face to my sons and their friend. “Just spotted a bit of lice. All gone, though, I hope! No worries!” Onward, across state, to Nevada City we sped.

“I have lice! Waaa!,” I cried as I saw my sister, patron Saint of Patience. “We’ll go to work,” she lovingly soothed. (Did I mention she’s the mother I always wanted?) And on her porch for two hours she repeated my ritual, but this time with sight on my scalp. Bugs and nits, I housed hundreds. Ick.

Obviously I wanted to go home immediately. What kind of vacation was this? But I was beholden to four others who were, to my astonishment, having fun. How could they possibly be enjoying themselves, there were lice on my head! Not on any of theirs, I might add. Share the love at least.

Finally we returned to Los Angeles where I promptly made an appointment with the Hair Fairies. Not that my sister didn’t try her best, just that I knew it wasn’t over. The four of us went in on a Friday morning. Bruce and Nate were lice-free. Will, poor sweet, wasn’t. And, needless to say, I was “off the charts.” The first visit set us back $436. $95 per hour for each, plus product. I went home and cleaned all sheets, towels, and anything else our heads had touched. I learned that lice don’t live off a human head for more than 48 hours so the fact that we had traveled for ten days meant our house was clean. But, every time Will or I sat, I put a towel down and sprayed the pillows, car upholstery, couches and chairs with environmentally friendly anti-lice spray. Every night I combed out our hair. We followed the rules religiously. Hence, I was dismayed three days later at our next appointment with the Hair Fairies; while Will was down just to 7 nits, I had 50. That visit was $230 and the next was in three more days. Same routine at home, plus no sleep. Back again to the Hair Fairies. Will just had one nit, I had 5. Come on, I pleaded. When does this end?  “Probably next week, but for now, it’s $180.” That week I made sure to not touch anything (air kisses), to let the lice shampoo and conditioner stay in my hair the requisite ten minutes each, to comb through every strand of Will’s hair and to have Bruce, now also a semi-expert, comb through mine. At our last venture to the Fairies, we were finally declared LICE FREE.

These things I’ve learned: It is rare, but possible to get lice from a seat at a theater (this could have happened to us), however, lice really like to stay put on a nice warm head—they don’t fly or jump, you must make contact. That although we are primarily an organic and paraben-free home, old fashioned, chemical-laden Rid at $10 a pop, would be my drug-of-choice if the blood suckers were to enter our terrain again. (The non-toxic Hair Fairies were certainly toxic to out bank account.) And, for speedy results, there is nothing wrong with a shaved head, especially on a mid-summer’s eve.

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While one may be able to wash a man right out of one’s hair, when it comes to lice one must wash thrice, be held-up by fairies and bring along more green than you find in Ireland (at least on our virgin lice voyage).

So thanks, Andy, for sharing (your words), for helping me see the upside of having no hair, and for joining me in finding a way to dedicate even a battle with head-lice to the oblique benefit of all our collective children.  You’re a good sport, and sometimes it’s the things we’d be least likely to want to talk about that let us get real and connect, much like our prehistoric ancestors must have done—picking the nits out of each other’s hair since the dawn of circle time.

Namaste, Andy (& Bruce)

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5 Responses to “Lice Capades”

  1. Amber Says:

    I was entertained and really sad for what you, Andy, experienced!! I have heard a few friends talk about their experience with lice. You feel so dirty, so invaded! Wow.

  2. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    You have a wonderful way with words, Andy. Not to mention with image selection. I laughed out loud – compassionately, of course – as I read and studied the photos (three cheers for Space Balls! Comb the desert, indeed).

    May your house never again be so infested by any literal or metaphorical plague.

  3. rebecca @ altared spaces Says:

    Andy! Great, great story and so well told. My kids attended a school that was wildly infested with lice and we kept dodging the bullet until one day when I got THE CALL. I picked up my child in the nurse’s office. Tears were held at bay until we were outside where they rained.

    It’s true, it takes forever. And you need someone else’s eyes.

    Great pictures!

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I will admit that I was both mildly amused, and utterly sympathetic. I went through this several times with both my boys, as did half the elementary school they attended.

    WEEKS of tedious “Ridding,” meticulous combing and combing through, more laundry (and paranoia) than typical, and eventually… a state of weary acceptance – given, as I said – that literally every parent I knew was simultaneously going through the same thing.

    I admit, second time around you no longer feel the stigma. After all, it’s a bug. It’s not personal.

  5. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Oh my GOD! You poor thing! I would be equally distressed. Hair vermin! Ack! The horror! My head itched just reading this.

    Loved the Spaceballs reference and the picture of Medusa. Violent hair, indeed.

    ps: Bruce, still not getting your feed 😦

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