Once again the school had sent notes home about another outbreak of head lice but of course I was confident that we had never had and never would get lice. Over the phone, the school secretary asked me to check Rachel’s head. Since she was in morning kindergarten, Rachel had missed the head check that afternoon. It seems that lice epidemics thrive in the younger grades and slowly spread through the entire school.
I laughed and said, “I just washed her hair last night; I really don’t think she has any but I’ll check anyway.”
I called Rachel over to a bright window, parted her hair and peered closely at her scalp. Her head was literally crawling with bugs! After screaming shrilly, I picked up the phone again only to hear the secretary say,
“I guess that is a ‘yes’, Mrs. Juneau.”
I was mortified; Rachel’s head was covered and another daughter saw a bug crawling on her forehead in a mirror at school!! I get itchy just remembering Lice Week. Of course, the school assured me that lice like clean hair but that did not reassure me at all. In the end, all Rachel’s siblings had at least a couple of nits. No one could return to school until they were completely lice and nit free.
Do you have any idea the work that faced us?
In those days health nurses and doctors told us to wash all bedding, favourite stuffed animals, throw pillows, afghans, towels, combs, hair brushes and hair accessories, hats, mitts, scarves, sweaters, clothes, pyjamas and house coats and finally both sets of snowsuits (the good set and the farm set). In addition, it was necessary to vacuum Chesterfields, chairs, rugs and anything touched by a head of hair. Those directions amounted to almost 60 loads of laundry! I filled a bathtub almost to the ceiling with stuff I had to wash. I solemnly swear, I do not exaggerate but that was not the hardest job in the next few days.
I had to wash ten heads of hair with awful smelling shampoo, then comb out every nit with vinegar and a special fine-tooted steal comb. Are you familiar with the saying, ‘oh quit nit -picking’? Well, it takes on a whole new meaning after you’ve tried to pull every sticky nit off single strands of hair on eleven heads.
So what does a slightly paranoid, overwhelmed mother do? She arranges everyone according to age and size to simultaneously check each others’ head. At least that helped with the more obvious eggs.
However, I was given a wonderful gift. A couple of my kids became expert nit pickers. The best nit pickers were the detail oriented offspring, who were slightly obsessive-compulsive; I grew to treasure that particular weakness during the next couple of weeks because one overlooked nit could explode into hundreds of offspring in a matter of days. Now that could cause a nightmare!
I wished I could say that this episode was the one and only “Battle of the Bugs” our family endured but kindergarten classes are notorious hotbeds for lice; the kids are always head to head examining something utterly fascinating with friends.
At least the next time lice hopped on a Juneau head we were battle ready.