It was a really ‘louse’-y time for nit-picking
Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2010 8:01 pm
By: By Glenda Caudle
The following is a recent conversation on a popular social networking site between two of my five offspring. Oh, the sweet, sweet memories of childhood my “yesteryear little ones” have carried with them into their adult lives.
Their — admittedly — melodramatic exchange, interspersed with pauses for appropriate side-splitting chuckles from themselves and their networking friends, almost makes me laugh. Almost.
I’m not quite there yet, but maybe someday I’ll think back on the “louse”y adventure to which they refer with a grin, as well. It is clear, however, that I need more than the 20 or so years that have elapsed before I can wipe tears of mirth from my eyes. I remember instead, all too well, the salty, moist streaks of frustration on my cheeks that appeared while I tried to detach hundreds of satanic little “nits” from four heads of long, thick, curly, course hair that I had previously thought of as my daughters’ crowning glory but which – in the flash of an “insect”-ual moment — I began to view as a plague that would surely have broken even Pharoah’s will.
I recall with great clarity, once the problem was called to my stunned attention in startling fashion (as described below), rushing forth to a local pharmacy not once, not twice, but three times to purchase additional bottles of lice-destroying chemicals and, as I poured on multiple bottles of the concoction to try to cover every strand on every head, mulling over the warning labels that warned me to limit the use to avoid brain damage. Clearly, the manufacturer had never envisioned the massive entanglements of Caudle-girl “big” hair.
I still have nightmares from time to time in which I am scurrying frantically through the house, grabbing up linens and washable toys and any other items which can be submerged in water and a liquid disinfectant and praying I haven’t overlooked anything that might still be harboring the little bugs that have made themselves at home just above the scalp line in my children’s hair.
I wonder, to this day, what anyone brave enough to go through our household garbage that week would have made of the discarded brushes and combs and hairbows and pony tail holders and pillows and hats and caps that either could not be washed or were simply not worth the trouble to subject to a cleansing treatment. I know I considered posting a notice on the trash can that the items were louse-y, but who had time for such social niceties when there were still carpets and slipcovers to disinfect and curtains to steam clean?
How had this happened?
I’d never met a louse in my life … well, maybe once or twice … but the ones I had encountered were not the variety that attached their little eggs to my innocent children’s hair follicles with a death grip.
We practiced daily bathing habits and at least once-weekly hair cleansing in our home. (A friend attempted to console me by announcing that lice love clean hair and shy away from greasy locks. I was not comforted.)
Casual inquiries that fooled no one revealed none of their friends were the pass-along culprits. I tried to be relieved that their pals were not similarly affected, but then I began to worry that my little ones might never be invited to a sleep-over again once their condition became public knowledge.
Worst of all, I discovered lice are not measles. You can “catch” them repeatedly if you are in the right place at the right time.
For weeks after I had sacked and burned and scoured and picked and shampooed and combed and exhausted myself in efforts to root out any and every place the little critters might be hiding or incubating, I found myself enhaling sharply with one hand to my mouth and the other to my heart-region if one of my little ones scratched at their head. I returned to the pharmacy and bought multiple cans of lice-preventive spray and presented them to the girls’ softball coaches, announcing that, henceforth, none of my offspring would don batting helmets that had not been thoroughly disinfected. (A beautician friend had suggested sharing head gear at the ball field might be the source of the problem, but we never knew for sure.) I encountered lots of eye-rolling, but, to their great credit, no burly coach ever actually refused to co-operate. I’ll never know if it was pity for my disheveled state (who has time for personal grooming when battling the most fiendish creature Noah chose to save) or fear of my wild-eyed, fervored, one-woman commitment to eradicating lice.
I considered giving all my girls pixie cuts, but who would perform the clipping duties? We were anathema at every beauty salon in the area and the girls refused to let me come near them with a pair of scissors in my hand — possibly because I was dealing with a mysterious nervous manual tic that came on in the midst of the ordeal and made it difficult for me to sign my name to notes sent home by their teachers or autograph checks for their lunch money.
At any rate, we survived.
They all still have massive heads of hair and, if they encounter lice again, it will not be my problem.
They’ve learned to joke about it. I’m grateful they emerged with humor intact and barely discernible damage to their gray matter.
As for me, I have had to use a word processor to record my recollections of that period. Seems the tremor in my right hand started up again once I was made aware of the public posting of the following nit-picky account of that louse-y time in my children’s lives.
From out of the mouths of (my) babes:
Daughter No. 3: “I remember that day like it was yesterday … Mom loaded us all up in the station wagon” (May I insert here that we were apparently the only family in town with a perfectly good mode of transportation whose sole purpose was — in their opinion — to mortify our children. Their father and I succeeded admirably in this endeavor and to this day they shudder at the site of such a grand old vehicle.) “… we (girls) were all going to get our hair cut, even if it was just a simple cut to fix the hack job a relative (who shall remain nameless) had done on my bangs. We climbed into chairs at *** and there we all were, waiting on Eeny, Meenie, Miney and Moe to cut our hair. And the next thing we knew, we were getting kicked out. Who knew we all had lice? Who knew? (Stage direction inserted here: one teardrop trickling out of left eye.)”
Daughter No. 2: “The sadness that engulfed my soul when I slowly walked out the door, passing the ‘Magic Hair Machine,’ the one that let you put a piece of your locks in and, in return, gave you toys …. Magical … but I knew that day would not end like the ones before. I knew the Caudles were damaged … and the magic locks were contaminated.”
Daughter No. 3: “One would almost think that the Caudles were not only banished from the ever-so-lovely *** but that they were also forever banished from ever again getting their locks snipped in the quaint village of Union City. And so, to this very day, all Caudle girls must make the long journey to the magical land of the white squirrels when in pursuit of a hair cut.”
Daughter No. 2: “I still cringe when I see the sign … give my head a little scratch for ol’ times sake … and then replay the sad scene over and over again in my head: the scissors being tossed in the trash, the slow-motion and voice-altered, ‘You have lice!’ that made me cower down and my bangs blow, walking out that door holding on to Mom’s denim skirt (front right), along with three other grubby little hands of my female siblings. The louse spared no one. But, at least, we were all in it together.”
Daughter No. 3: “If Eeny, Meenie, Miney and Moe had only known the real pain that was endured later by the ‘little women,’ sitting in the kitchen, waiting for our turn to lie on the counter as our own mother searched through our hair with a fine-toothed comb — looking and waiting for the scavengers. It was not until later, as I lay crying on a bare mattress” (beds were immediately stripped and sprayed — no, make that ‘doused,’ with lice-killer), “that I realized the severity of the situation. I did not even have my stuffed monkey to comfort me. He had been taken hostage, as well, and was suffering from his incubation in the (disinfecting) garbage bag. Oh, the misery.”
Daughter No. 2: “I can still remember lying flat on my back, head in the kitchen sink, and Mom crying and humming those precious hymns, ‘I Surrender All, I Surrender All.’”
Daughter No. 3: “If I’m not mistaken, I can remember hearing sounds of harmony joining in on verses 3 and 4. It had to have been a louse joining in on songs of praise.”
Daughter No. 2: “And just as one crawled between (Daughter No. 4’s) eyebrows, he lifted his little louse hand — it was the sweet, sweet spirit in that place.”
Daughter No. 3: “And as they quietly marched along, leaving their glorious home, you could hear a deep, rattling voice coming from (Daughter No. 4’s) frontal lobe, and it said, ‘Let my people go.’”
Daughter No. 2: “Amen.”
Mom’s last word: On second thought, perhaps I should have paid heed to the warning label related to possible gray-matter distress on the de-louser shampoo.
Mrs. Caudle, The Messenger’s Special Features Editor, may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.01.10