No head scratcher: Life (and lice) happens

Aunt Sydney: Second-grade school photo.

Aunt Sydney: Second-grade school photo.

By Jeff Keeling

Memories swarmed the second I walked in the back door last Thursday and heard the lovely and talented Angela’s pronouncement: “I think Owen has lice.”

We were about to pack up our pot roast, strap the ebullient Owen and spritelike Emmarie into their car seats, and head to a weekly small group dinner – or so I had thought, before I heard the news. Instead, should Emmarie’s head check out clean, I would be heading (thank you, Lord) to the Waites’ house while Gran Gran stayed behind to begin triage.

In the event, Emmarie did check out clean, while Owen had what turned out to be a louse – just one, as far as the lovely, talented and exceedingly meticulous Angela could ascertain. While she debriefed Owen, who apparently had shared a pillow with a little chum while watching a movie at Educare, the texts started flying back and forth.

“I will check them real well,” Angela wrote at 5:08. “But, pretty sure. I have some experience with this in very early stages.” At 5:11 came, “Pretty sure Owen has lice,” followed by this at 5:13 from his dad, the multi-instrumentalist Zach: “Oh god noooooo.”

It was my turn to weigh in at that point. Knowing that our privilege would be to pass Owen off to Zach and Madison once they got home from work, I struck at 5:14: “We had our turn(s),” followed by this caveat at 5:15: “With mom bearing the brunt, of course.”

Indeed, as Angela wrote at 5:16, “I recall me and Sydney crying once…”

One is enough, of course, as Angela and I are well aware. We – okay, mostly she – dealt with the aftermath of lice several times when the kids were younger.

Owen and Emmarie’s Aunt Sydney remembered picking it up at Girls Inc. and at church. I remember bagging of pillows and blankets for laundering, lots of manic vacuuming by Angela, and the year that Syd, just in time for school picture day, had cornrows and Vaseline in her hair, post-outbreak. (Fate had somehow managed to saddle her with a fever blister at the same time. At least she was 7, not 17.)

Owen after his date with the clippers.

Owen after his date with the clippers.

Owen, for his part, now sports a closely shaved noggin in place of his standard, cute little boy ‘do, though he should be back to normal by school picture time.

Just to clarify, we’re not slovenly or dirty people, nor are our kids and grandkids. I will add, however, that while it says “having head lice does not mean you are dirty,” the American Academy of Dermatology’s website does bust the “lice are only attracted to clean hair” myth. “The lice do not care whether the person has squeaky-clean hair or dirty hair,” say the people who should know.

I pondered whether some profound life lessons could be gleaned from the “visitation.” That lasted for about 10 seconds before I realized, “nah.” Emmarie probably summed it up best earlier this year, when her older brother spilled a drink on our kitchen floor and was working up a distraught response.

Cocking her head about 25 degrees, she nodded reassuringly (the kid has no shortage of mannerisms), uttering a truism we repeat frequently: “It happens. It does.”



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