Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hair nits

To the uninitiated, the shame of head lice cannot be fully appreciated. Until my daughter contracted lice, I was glib. Certainly, it wouldn't happen to our family.

"There's been an outbreak of head lice in the Sunday School," the Church Education Director told me, her forehead creased with concern. My daughter was three years old at the time. "We've removed all play hats from the costume bin. Hopefully that will help."

I nodded with empathy. Must be tough for her, dealing with unhappy parents, I thought. Judy assured me the teachers had checked all the kids' heads, and my daughter's hair seemed to be lice free.

Shortly afterward, I flew to Florida to see my parent, and brother and sister-in-law and toddler nieces for a sunny, seaside vacation.

On our return, my daughter went for a play date down the street, and I received a phone call almost immediately after I dropped her off.

"The play date's off," Tami said.

"What happened?" I'm thinking biting, scratching, an injury of some kind.

"Please just come get your daughter."

I walked down the street to my neighbor's house, and Tami was standing with my three-year-old in the driveway, keeping a firm grip on her hand.

"Your daughter has lice," Tami said, brushing the blond hair off her neck and showing me red itching scabs along her hair line, itching irritation I'd attributed to playing in sand. "Don't you know what it looks like? I don't want her anywhere near my house."

I took my daughter's hand and drew her close. "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize. But, what do I do? How do I get rid of it?"

Tami rolled her eyes. She had two older boys in addition to Brynne. Apparently she'd been through this. "You go to the pharmacy and buy RID or some other product. You have to comb out all the nits with a special comb."

On the short walk home, I began to review in my mind all the place we'd been, the many ways my daughter could have passed lice to others. On the airplane to Florida, while playing with her cousins, on the airplane back from Florida. It dawned on me that, in my ignorance, I'd spread lice from one corner of the country to the other. Then I felt a creepy-crawly feeling on the back of my neck. Did I have lice, too?

It took a long time to RID the lice from our lives. I had it, my husband had it, my son had it. My sister-in-law called and both her daughters had it. My daughter's friend Sophie had it. We managed to get rid of the lice, except for my dear daughter. Perhaps because her case was so far advanced, or maybe because of exceptionally fine hair, I had a dickens of a time. Invisible enemies are the worst. I just couldn't see what I was trying to fight. Then, one day, as my daughter slept with her head on my lap and the sun shone down on her fanned out hair, I saw them. Tiny clear nodules attached, about two inches down from her scalp, to just about every single one of her fine little hairs. So that's the culprit.. At last, I had a visible foe and immediately got to work removing them.

My kids are grown now, but I was reminded of that awful head lice experience the other day, when my friend Janet was talking about how her kids had contracted head lice. "I took them to LKY," she told me. "There's one on Mercer Island, now."

"LKY? What's that?"

"It's a company that helps you get rid of head lice. LKY stands for Lice Knowing You. They have a back entrance, in a non-descript back lot, so you don't have to be seen going in." Janet gave a chortle. "Although, when I went, my next door neighbor was there, too."

Lice Knowing You. Sounds like a winning business concept to me.