There are certain events in our lives that we never forget. Some good. Some bad. This week I have been reminded of one of the bad ones. As most of you know I am a teacher and one of the problems public schools face is dealing with lice. They are pesky, persistant little bugs and once you get them they don’t want to leave you. (Is your head itching yet?) Anyway our school is no different than other schools and several children have had to go home this week because of lice. All week long my head has itched. I couldn’t decide if I was imagining it (why is it just hearing the word “lice” can make itching begin) or if it was real. So I talked to the principal who said if I was worried I should get the nurse to check me. You are probably wondering why I just didn’t get my husband to check my hair and keep my mouth shut. There are two reasons. First, even if I did have lice Bill couldn’t see them. He’s had lasik surgery and his vision is better, but it isn’t that good. Second, I can’t keep my mouth shut. I’m a writer. If I feel the need to say something I say it. I felt like one reason we have so many cases at school is because kids don’t understand how to get rid of them and so I suggested to the principal that we have a “lice lesson”. Sometimes treating a child’s head isn’t enough. If the child has had them awhile then the home has to be treated as well or they will come back. How do I know this?
The year was 1990 and it was one of the worst years of my life. My mother had terminal cancer. My husband was in graduate school and working full time and I had three young children to take care of. I had just started teaching and I was trying to juggle kids, job, and caring for my mom. I was beyond stressed and way into “disstressed.” For weeks my little girl had been saying her head itched. I’d bought different kinds of shampoos thinking that she was allergic to what we were using. If my life had been normal I think I would have caught on sooner, but like I said I was very distracted and I missed all the signs. By the time my sister-in-law discovered the problem (she was an elementary teacher and an expert lice patrol person) there is no telling how long my daughter had had them.
I don’t know why there is a stigma about having lice, but there is. Supposedly “good families” don’t have lice. Hog wash! Anyone can get it. All it takes is getting close to someone who has it and those little bugs see “vacancy” signs all over your head and jump in your hair. I think my daughter got it because of a coat closet where all the children put their coats and hats in the winter time, but I never knew for sure. By the time we discovered it on my daughter’s head— we all had it. Yes, even my sick mother had to be treated. We’d all used the same hair brushes. My cousins from Florida had been visiting and I had to call them and tell them to get checked. They had it too! What a thing to take home from a family vacation.
It took at least a week of treating everyone’s head. Getting new brushes (I was told I could boil the old ones and kill the little devils that way but I didn’t want to take a chance). I threw away all my daughter’s hairbows and put her stuffed animals in garbage bags, sprayed them and left them tied up for weeks. Then I did the same thing with couch cushions. I stripped all the beds and washed everything in hot water, twice. Every hat and cap was placed in garbage bags, sprayed and left tied for weeks. It was an expensive, exhausting, unpleasant experience. And so this week when my head itched, I remembered what it was like to go through this and went straight to the nurse.
Years after our Lice-capades (we’ve had mouse-capades too) one of our boys decorated a plastic plate for me for Mother’s Day. He handpainted a little poem on it and drew bugs around it. It said, “Dear mom, you are so nice. You loved us even when we had lice.” I still treasure the plate…and I still hate lice.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. I went to the school nurse and she declared me “bug free.” So I went to the principal and sang him a little song. It’s the song the big fluffy dog sings on television for a flea shampoo, “Ain’t no bugs on me, on me. Ain’t no bugs on me!” And that’s what I’m thankful for this week!
What about you? Have you ever had a close encounter with pestilence of any kind? How did you deal with it?