To say my mom has a lice issues is like saying Oedipus had mommy issues. When you spend a better portion of your life Cloroxing wooden spoons, brushing your teeth so often the gums recede, and buying ammonia in bulk, the idea of filthy flesh colored cooties crawling on your head makes you kookoo bananas. Fact: my mom has NEVER rested her head back on a movie theater seat; refuses to wear helmets while renting bikes unless SHE Lysols it; has never used an airplane pillow or tried on a hat/scarf/muffler in a store. It was torture for her when we all got it as kids. But what put her over the edge was when she got lice in return for taking in two LDS sister missionaries who had been living in a filthy apartment whose windows were shot out by gangs (no good deed goes unpunished...).
Dave & I lived in China for a year and I was so homesick for normal food. A typical meal there was soggy bread, sea slug, and cow tendons. I was so desperate that we even took the train 14 hours to Beijing just to go to McDonald's. I wrote my mom and begged her to send me some Swedish Fish. Two weeks later a slip in our mailbox that there is a package for us downtown. "Treats!" I think and we take two buses down to Zhongshan Lu, wait in one line for 20 minutes to pay 5 yuan for another slip of paper that let's us wait another 20 minutes to turn that one in for my precious padded envelope. When I saw my mom's handwriting my heart skipped a beat and I tore it open to find...a bottle of RID shampoo. "Dear Heather, You may need this in case of lice. Love, Mom." I cried a little as I cursed her and her OCD ways. Dave took me to the market to search for something familiar and comforting to buy. The closest thing we could find was Tang--but lychee flavored. Yuck.
Fast forward to Christmas Eve 2006. I am sitting in church, soaking up the music and Nativity scriptures and admiring my Georgia's beautiful thick hair. She snuggles closer and I run my fingers through it...and see something dart across her part. Upon closer inspection I discover several more critters and start to channel my mom. I can't hear the music anymore, just the thump thump thump of my heart as I realized that my kids, my house, are vermin infested and it will take herculean efforts to rid us of these beasts. And we will be branded as the "Lice Family." We do indeed have cooties. Georgia might as well have leprosy.
The rest of the vacation was a blur of shampooing, combing, washing bedding, combing, olive oil treatments, combing, soaking brushes in bleach. (For a hilarious essay on the stages of dealing with lice, read Marion Winik's at http://www.myonlinewellness.com/topic/nitsessay) I even resorted to microwaving pillowcases and hoodies. The "Christmas Miracle" as we call it was that Millie, who shares a bed, brushes, and basically everything with Georgia, never got lice. Bea, Jonah & I were also part of the Passover. But Dave, who poo pooed my cleaning frenzy and rolled his eyes when I manically scratched and doused my head with the shampoo made from Agent Orange, got lice.
We survived and went on to watch it pass thru and ravage our friends houses. In fact, it became the Mormon plague. We got good at louse archeology. By examining the nits & nymphs, we could determine roughly when a kid had first become host and it turned out that Sunday was NOT a day of rest for lice but the high holy holiday and our church pews the vector. So while we thought that taking our kids to Sunday School was filling their souls with Christianity it was really filling their heads with parasites. So we bought lint rollers and religiously attempting to masking tape to death any bugs left by the previous congregation. We refused to use the communal coat racks and adopted the fake hug that keeps you free of hair contact. We became my mother.
It's been almost 3 years without another incident but I keep RID on hand and heaven help the kid who scratches their head. Every time I see the school's number on caller ID I pray, "Dear Lord, please let this be ANYTHING but a lice call." I've had kids break limbs and get hospitalized with RSV. And lice is worse because it makes you paranoid and ashamed and nobody conspiratorially says, "Ooooh, that's the family with the broken legs. Don't play with them."
So this year when I starting working on my song for the Exponent Retreat talent show (I'll admit it, I am the Mormon Weird Al), I decided to dedicate it to all the mamas out there in the trenches who battle this scourge. It's set to the tune of "Ere you left your room this morning." We used combs, magnifying glasses, and electric clippers as props. And the stuffed lice that Denise and I loathe but also had to buy. I have to say that we, Coco, Neese, Parry, Sande, Libby & I rocked. And with Parry & harmozing Libby, we actually sounded good for once.
1. Ere you groomed your kids this morning,
Did you check for lice?
Were there any creepy critters?
Even dandruff gives me jitters
Check, not once, but twice.
Oh--nitpicking makes me weary!
Washing sheets from all the beds,
Malathion makes me teary,
Perhaps I’ll shave our heads.
2. Before you put them on the school bus,
Did you check for lice?
When you see your daughter scratching
Does it mean the eggs are hatching
Nymphs the size of rice.
3. After having a sleep over
Did you check for lice?
Don’t you know that at their friends’ house
They might pick up a stray louse
And now you pay the price.
4. Ere you go to church to worship,
You should check your pew
Cooties on the benches flourish
Then on your kids scalps they nourish
Try some RID shampoo.
Here's wishing a louse-free year to you and yours!