A Home for the Fleas, A Hive for the Buzzing Bees
The following story was cleared by Daughter before being published.
One afternoon back in December, Daughter was studying with her math tutor and I was doing what I do when she’s being tutored, which is find horoscopes online and choose to believe the ones which tell me next month will be very profitable for Leos. After her hour was up, she walked out looking ashen. I assumed this had something to do with polynomials. As it usually happens, I was painfully mistaken.
“Mom,” she whispered, “My head kept itching and I scratched it and...I think I have lice.”
No rabbit hearing the yip of a nearby coyote grew more still and alert than I did at that moment. On one side, the odds were small. She home-schools, she doesn’t share hats with anybody, we made it through four lice-scares in pre-school with nary a bug. On the other side, EWEWEWEWEWEWEWEWEWEWEW. I knew intellectually that lice come to the worthy and the unworthy equally and had supported more than a few friends during their hour of need, reminding them of the irony that lice actually prefer clean hair, but when the bell tolls for thee, it’s hard not to wonder if someone from the state is going to come, take your child and place her with competent parents.
But before the gagging would come the confirming. I whisked her off (without actually touching her) to the nearest pharmacy, where I bought a lice comb. I paid cash so the cashier wouldn’t know my name and shout something helpful like “GOOD LUCK WITH REMOVING VERMIN FROM YOUR CHILD!!!!!” I tore the comb from the package, we huddled behind the car and I combed her hair.
My mind raced. Not only was I now driving a minivan’s worth of living things, we had tickets to see the Rockette’s Christmas show in (I checked my watch) two hours. I wasn’t taking those little bastards to the Staples Center with us. Daughter looked miserable. Suddenly, from the blue, I remembered what my ever-informative friend Veronica had told me once in passing about lice.
“The shampoos are really toxic and don’t really work anymore but you know what does? Hair color. Just get a color which pretty much matches your kid’s hair and you’re done with them.”
I did a quick search online which seemed to corroborate what Veronica said. I explained to Daughter what we would be doing. She looked delighted which would have been incongruous were it not for the fact that she’s being arguing for highlights since before she could tie her shoes. We tore back into the pharmacy and flew into the hair-color aisle and were confronted with a language only slightly less illuminating than runes. Was she a “Honey amber brown” or did she answer to “Golden tawny oak”? Where was the “Brown with yellowy bits” bottle? Time was passing. Rockettes were warming up. I could only assume lice were making more of themselves. I vetoed Daughter’s suggestion of “Marilyn icy blonde” and grabbed “Golden brown.” We dashed home, but not before I put a beach towel between her head and the back of the seat.
Consort has gotten used to us running in the door mid-adventure, but I think he would admit this was a new level of insanity, what with me screaming TAKE ALL THE SHEETS AND THE TOWELS AND WASH THEM IN A HOT CYCLE AND FIND ME SOME RAGS YOU DON’T MIND SEEING STAINED AND HERE PUT THIS COMB IN ALCOHOL AND THEN RUN IT THROUGH YOUR HAIR AND SEE IF THERE ARE BUGS IN YOUR HAIR OKAY BECAUSE I CAN’T HELP YOU BECAUSE I HAVE TO DYE YOUR DAUGHTER’S HAIR.
(There weren’t. Bugs in his hair, I mean. Mine, either. We’re still puzzled by the infestation, because none of her friends have them right now. A friend even told me December isn’t the usual time for lice. All I can note is that I got an Academy Award nomination at ten and my tonsils out at 24. My people do things on their own schedule.)
Within minutes, we were over the kitchen sink and I was mixing bottle A to bottle B. In my entire life, I’ve only had colored hair for a year in total so this was something of a novelty for me. As long as I forgot that a) my daughter in the plastic cap was ten and b) my daughter was in the plastic cap because little bastards were walking all over her head, it was kind of fun. We chit-chatted.
I vetoed a pink stripe on the underside of her hair but felt good enough about being on top of this little domestic drama that I swore we could revisit the subject when she’s fourteen.
The timer went off. We rinsed. We rinsed some more. I thought about bugs and then rinsed a few more times. I sent her to her bedroom to get changed for the Rockettes, confirmed that our linens were nearly being boiled and went off to change for the night. Considering Consort was driving us to the Staples Center and I didn’t have to drive, I had a glass of wine.
Because honestly, if not then, then when?
The show was delightful. The women were identical. The fake snow came down in an adorable way and for minutes at a time I forgot about the previous two hours. The lights came up and Daughter and I went to leave. I glanced over at her as we walked up the aisle and thought, “Huh. That’s funny. Her hair almost looks orange. Must be the lights in here.”
Yeah. That must have been it.
Next time: It starts getting real.