Lice! (and Other Things No One Wants to Talk About)

published Mar 27, 2015
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It was just a few days before Thanksgiving weekend. I was splitting the Thanksgiving meal preparation with a best friend and we were also co-hosting another family who was going to join us from out of town for the holiday. I’d just settled into my blue armchair with my morning coffee when ding! the IM sounded and I clicked over on my phone to read dreaded news: our best friends had lice!!! Oh, I can’t tell you how I shuddered. I was ready to cancel Thanksgiving altogether.

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After irate phone calls to the school and to the Health Department (the school had known of an incident in the classroom and failed to notify parents to be on the alert; not aware of anything, we’d let our girls have a sleepover and my daughter almost certainly had a head teeming with creepy crawlies I had yet to discover), it was was time to inform our guests of our horrifying and frankly embarrassing situation.

Much, much to my surprise, my “I have really bad news. We have lice” announcement was met with laughter and “Oh, it’s okay! You just use some shampoo and kill them! We’re not going to let that ruin Thanksgiving! See you soon!”

Now, let me be clear, I’m of the ilk that would never ever, ever spend the night in a household that was actively dealing with a lice situation. No way, no how. But our friends’ response was refreshing and, even if I thought it was a little foolish, it was also almost heroic. And I was glad Thanksgiving was still on.

Over the next few days, I fervently shampooed and combed my daughter’s hair and stopped the tiny early-stage lice that were trying to take up residence on her precious head right in their disgusting little tracks. I also went over and helped our best friends battle their lice, critters that were much farther advanced in their life cycle. I confess I screamed and almost cried when catching them in the comb. (Not sure how helpful that was! Sorry guys!) Bugs outside or even in the house I can be pretty brave about. Bugs on us? Noooooooooo.

Can I just say, as much as I wish the whole thing had never happened, there’s nothing like nit-picking to make you feel closer to someone. We had good laughs over knowing the origin of terms like nit-picking (which, interestingly, is actually a very kind and intimate thing to do for someone when it’s literal), going over it with a fine-toothed comb (nit combs are like flea combs, with very thin, very close tines), and lousy (when you have lice, you are itchy, especially at night, so you’re tired and itchy, so you feel lousy).

Our guests miraculously remained lice free and we had an awesome weekend (all girls’ hair up in tight braids) full of feasting, late nights of Pictionary and Speed Scrabble, and bike riding amongst Tallahassee’s Spanish moss-draped majestic oaks. I was reminded that we’re all human and stuff happens and that the best way to face things is honestly and openly — in the sense of open to doing things a way other than my own knee-jerk default, in this case not canceling Thanksgiving. Most importantly, I experienced the warmth and treasured memory-making that comes with approaching life’s little hiccups together and with laughter.