“Well?” I asked her anxiously.
“…I have it.” She responded fretfully.
Faster than a plate drops to the floor, I jumped back like some sort of superhuman.
“Get away from me! Ew! Get out of here!” I yelled at her.
My sister was a young thing then. Let’s see, she must have been nine. The news caused a dread in her eyes that quickly turned to sadness after I yelled at her, and she left the bathroom crying those poor little eyes out. As to be expected, my mom came up moments later to explain that my sister had the impression that I thought she was disgusting.
I went downstairs and apologized to her. Poor thing. I don’t think my apology made her feel any less disgusting. After all, there were bugs living in her hair. As bad as I felt for her, there really was no way I was going to let my eighth grade, awesome self have some sort of weird condition that would segregate me from my friends. I went for the kitchen, grabbed a plastic bag and a bottle of olive oil. Leaning over the sink I doused my scalp and hair with olive oil, tied a plastic bag around my head and then another for good measure.
Then it began. The process was always the same. Mom turned into a crazy anti-bug nazi, and next thing we knew, literally everything we owned was separated into its appropriate pile. There was a pile of hair stuff. The hair stuff would be sorted through accordingly – everything that was cheap would be disposed and everything else would be boiled in water several times. There were piles of stuffed animals and dolls that would be bagged for the next few months. We’d say our last goodbyes to our favorite ones, put them in the bag, and lay on the bag to remove all of the oxygen so the little bugs had nothing to keep them alive. Then, there were piles of clothes. (Imagine enough clothing to clothe ten people.) Those piles would go to the laundry mat. Mom only let us keep a few outfits. The rest would stay in bags after they were cleaned so my parents didn’t have to make several trips to the laundry mat. We also had piles of blankets and pillows that would need to be cleaned. My dad had to remove the seats in The Bus (our fifteen-passenger van) to fit the tens of bags that would spend the next several hours at the laundry mat. We also spent probably two hours each day vacuuming the cracks and crevices of our home. It was such a process.
I kid you not my mom would spend six+ hours per day combing through our hair. My younger siblings would have to be bribed with candy to stay sitting. Sometimes we would fall asleep during the process of having our hair combed through. A daunting process for a mother.
Fortunately this time I didn’t get lice, but everyone else had it. And I certainly knew what they were going through.
There was the time in third grade where my best friend and I both got it. It was so bad we got drastic haircuts, as if that didn’t shout to the rest of the school Oh hey! We had lice. We blamed the other for quite some time as to who had it first. Some times we’ll still joke to the other, “Hey, remember that one time you gave me lice?”
There was another time the whole family had it. It seems to be blocked out of my memory. Probably for the best. But it is not fun to itch your scalp raw or to fall asleep knowing bugs are busy working to reproduce in your hair. Yuck.
Today when I got to New Hope the girls I usually work with were quieter than normal.
“Why are you so quiet today? You’re never quiet!” I joked with Elizabeth.
When I entered the house and spoke with their house mom I learned that the girls have lice. Down here, a lice outbreak is not surprising. And even though discovering lice has become routine for the house moms, it’s doesn’t make the experience any less disturbing. I sat there like a mature adult asking questions about the outbreak (instead of jumping away and shouting like a child.) I asked the house mom what she had done thus far, and I offered to help comb out the nits. As I sat there chatting with her and offering suggestions, I couldn’t help but recount all of the times my head had likely touched each of the girls…
Bear checked my head tonight like a real champ. Of course he had to take the opportunity and make an exaggerated gasp in the process. I only believed him for a fraction of a second and yelled at him for causing the fright. We’ll see in the next few days if I have the dreaded bug too. But for the first time I wouldn’t actually mind if I ended up getting it. No, I don’t want it! But if I get it, these kids will be worth every nit.