Mystery voice on phone: Julia. Hey. [long pause] I have something I need to tell you.
I recognized the voice of my best friend. However, she wasn’t speaking in her normal happy tra-la-la voice. Rather, it was more of a voice of dread. I knew instantly something was wrong.
Fearing the worst, I asked her right away what was wrong.
Unhappy friend: Well, I’m making... the phone call of shame...
Me: The what? [knowing that times were tight, my first thought was I wonder if she had taken a job as a stripper. She can be compulsive like that. Not that I have anything against strippers. I’ve known some really nice ones. They were always sparkly. I just didn’t really foresee this as the optimal career for my friend. When she is in front of a large group of people she doesn't know she gets nervous and makes really awkard jokes. It just wouldn’t be good for tips.]
Unhappy friend: Well… my kids... have... lice.
There it was. She said it. The words all mothers fear the most. Well, almost. They were the words that caused shunning among the PTA and the whispering and not-so-discretely pointing with eyes, lips, and head nods. We would be known as the ‘dirty people down the street.’
Quick say something to your obviously distraught friend. Say something!!
Me: Ooh, gross. [not so supportive] Ugh, that sucks. Well, um, okay- thanks for letting me know… [Our kids had spent several days together that week. Crap.] It’s no big deal! [AHHHH!] They have all kinds of treatments for that now. [Don’t panic…don’t panic…] OkayIbettergonowbye.
I hang up the phone and look over at my husband.
Husband: [Looking at me thoughtfully for a moment.] Okay.
I am silent for a moment. I take this in. I begin to do inventory in my head. My head begins to itch. I scratch it. I recently had read something on Pinterest about ‘natural remedies’. I laughed and scrolled on- thinking how embarrassing it would be to ‘pin’ something like that. That would suggest my kids could get lice. Oh funny Pinterest. That would never happen to us. I inform my kids not to wear random hats of strangers.
But it was happening.
Though the details are somewhat vague from that moment on- I know the rest of the night went something like this:
Husband drops us off at home and goes on a run to the store for supplies.
I order the children to run downstairs and strip down to their underwear, throwing everything, including their coats into the washer.
I strip down to my underwear and throw all into the washer as well, turning it on the hottest setting possible.
I kick myself for not having a burn barrel to just throw everything into.
I wince in pain where I kicked myself.
I run upstairs and tell the kids not to touch anything.
I call them over and begin head checks on all three of them.
I find nothing but am unconvinced. I look further and find a few specs of dirt in my youngest child’s hair. I resolve to give her baths more frequently. (it’s a third child thing)
My head itches some more. I run upstairs to check in the mirror. I see nothing- but still remain unconvinced.
I run downstairs and into the pantry to pull out some apple cider vinegar.
I drag the kids into the bathroom and begin pouring it over their heads over the sink.
It smells horribly and they complain of it.I hush them and pour it in my own hair. I consider pouring it onto the cats but I have run out.
I quickly run to their bedrooms to begin stripping their sheets.
I carry the bundles of bedding and toys- anything that may have touched their beds- down the stairs and throw it on the laundry room floor.
Husband arrives at home bearing coconut oil in his arms like a storybook hero.
I leap forward and grab the jar from his hand and began dousing the children’s hair in the oils.
My sister (the crazy one) arrives and I cannot understand why she will not treat her hair since she has been in the same room as my children who have been in the same room as my friend's children.
She says it's not a plague. She's a nurse and uses all of these medical terms.
I begin yelling a lot. Freak-out mode is on full force. I cannot understand why no one else is taking this as serious as I am.
I fear the house is already condemned but do my best to save it as I begin bagging all of their clothes and blankets and throwing them outside. I really love my house and don't want to lose it.
I isolate myself to my room as I've been told I've officially lost it.
The bugs continue to crawl all over me- reproducing every minute.
The world grows dark. I either black out or go to sleep. I'm not sure. But when I awake- it is morning. I look around to find the house is still intact. Was it all a nightmare? I touch my hair and feel the greasy oils in it. Nope. Wasn't a dream.
However, something has changed. I suddenly don't feel as though the walls are caving in on my infested home. I breath calmly. In fact, my head doesn't even itch anymore.
My sister comes into my room with a list of facts and myths about lice. Looking around the house, it dawns on me that I may have overreacted- just a little. Perhaps this is something that we can survive.
I also learn that it is not necessary to go to such measures when a louse has not even been spotted just because you know someone who has it.
Somewhere in there I realize I may have slightly overreaccted. Just a little. I make several apologies and wonder what in the heck had come over me.
And then I call my unhappy friend. I listen to her tell me about all of the crazy things she did the previous night too. And then I realize- I am not alone in my crazy, irrational fears.
Perhaps bugs make all mothers go a little insane.
And sometimes, if I'm very still, I can still feel them crawling all over me...