My husband and I stood back and admired our work: every dust-bunny was wrangled, the chaos under every piece of furniture was tamed, every scrap of fabric had been washed, fluffed, and replaced appropriately. We were ready to welcome my husband’s family to Thanksgiving in Louisville, our polished doors were open. Then, Sunday evening, as I parted my daughter’s hair for pigtails in preparation for my side of the family’s humble Thanksgiving dinner, I found lice.
The initial reaction was denial: that certainly wasn’t something moving in my child’s immaculate hair. But as I confirmed another case in my son’s head, the reaction transformed to shock: Shave their heads like the Nazis did to Jews in the concentration camps, I thought to myself as I began to compulsively scratch my own scalp and tear pillow cases from the newly made beds. My bathroom became the set of a bad-mother-movie scene as I herded my poor, naked children into an empty bathtub and demanded, “Don’t move, I’ll be right back!” Dashing out the door and down to the local pharmacy, I began to realize the host of repercussions from this outbreak: my son had had his first sleepover at our house the night before, so I had to call that mother; I’d have to alert both of their schools and we would be “that family” when the fliers went home in the backpacks; I’d have to tell the twenty guests traveling near and far for Thanksgiving that our house may continue to give long after the turkey carcass, and I’d have to clean my entire house, again.
I stood in the pharmacy’s consultation line, furiously scratching my own scalp from paranoia, pacing with impatience, practicing a newfound bounty of tics I’d adopted in the past 10 minutes. I think the pharmacist was ignoring me as I’m sure I resembled a junky looking for a fix. Nope, just a mom with the first outbreak of head lice (easily confused). When I explained our problem he was kind and reassuring, his kids and grandkids had all gone through this too, and pointed me to the treatment aisle. “They’re persistent little fellas,” he yelled as I was leaving. “Good luck!”
It was then that I began to question my faith. I’m not particularly religious, but really think God gets a kick out of testing our family before Thanksgiving, our favorite of the holidays. One year, our gas line that fuels our gas stove (a necessary component to preparing a feast unless you know Squanto) went out two days before T-Day. This year He’d (She’d never do that) broken our washer Sunday morning and sent a plague of lice upon our house by Sunday evening. Customary to the past holiday catastrophes, my husband and I tackled this hurdle with beautiful marital synergy. I preened the heads, a laborious and back-breaking process as you hunch over squirming children’s manes searching for minuscule nits (the term “nit-picking” has taken on a whole new meaning) hours every day, in such a meticulous fashion I am now destined to be a premature hunchback. My husband repaired the washer and helped me conquer the house and every scrap of fabric in it, again.
Neither of us practiced our hobbies of micromanaging (mine) or emotional tantrums (his); we worked in perfect stoic unison to complete the incredible task at hand. The groceries are finished, the wine is breathing... Thanksgiving--bring it on!
Photo by Dorothea Lange