Writing a blog has been liberating and healing, and I am so appreciative of the warm response to my ramblings and reflections. But one recent experience was so scary and distressing it gave me my first ever case of writer’s block.
It involved lice.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call after dinner to inform me that one of my daughter’s friends, with whom she’d just spent the weekend, had lice. It was too late to go to the lice lady to have Kim checked out, so I made an appointment for the next morning. Then I raced to CVS and purchased an at-home treatment (after a quick survey of the store to make sure no one I knew was on the checkout line), because of course I couldn’t wait overnight to find out from an expert whether Kim had it, too.
Dr. House was was determined to make that diagnosis herself.
That night, as I combed out Kim’s hair with our new blue plastic nit comb, I found dozens of tiny white eggs.
I cannot tell you how grossed out I was, so I won’t even try.
As I made the dreaded calls to the moms of the friends Kim had seen since the weekend to warn them their daughters might be infected, too, my head started to itch.
First thing the next morning, I took Kim to the lice lady, who said I had done an excellent job with the at-home kit, because after an hour combing Kim’s hair, she didn’t find a single egg.
Evidently I was quite the lice-slayer. I was very proud of myself.
I had a comb out too, and the lice lady didn’t find anything because, she explained cheerfully, a) I’m old, and b) there are some people lice just aren’t attracted to.
I thought we were home free, but two days later I did a comb out on Kim as a precaution, and found more eggs. I had already changed Kim’s bedding and tossed her stuffed animals in the attic, but evidently that wasn’t enough. I boiled her brushes (again), and put everything she touched in the dryer, not to mention vacuuming like a madwoman (once I figured out where the cleaning lady keeps the vacuum cleaner, and how to operate it).
But the next day, more eggs.
This cleaning frenzy continued for two weeks, with me spending hours a day doing laundry, and evenings in front of the kitchen sink, combing out Kim’s hair. At one point, I gave Kim a hug (being careful to avoid her head) and told her it was nice to have this bonding time with her, just the two of us. “WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU,” yelled Kim, “THAT YOU’RE HAPPY YOUR DAUGHTER HAS LICE?!”
That’s not exactly what I meant, but she had a point.
Finally, right before Christmas, I decided we had to make another trip to the lice lady to figure out why we couldn’t shake the problem. The lady did a comb out, and found the eggs, just like I had.
Only it turns out what I’d been combing out for two weeks weren’t eggs. They were towel lint. “So you’ve been combing my hair for an hour every night til my neck hurts, and using that nasty shampoo that smells, and boiling my brushes til they melt, and ruining my North Face jacket in the dryer, all because I have TOWEL LINT?” asked Kim with a look.
All things considered, though, she took it pretty well. Good thing for me Christmas was right around the corner.
Needless to say, Santa brought her a new coat and a new brush.
Christmas is what I’ll write about tomorrow, but I had to get this story out of the way first, the story of the last time I play doctor because I am too impatient to spend one night waiting for a proper appointment.
Ho ho ho.
This is the last time I skip going to church for seven months.
I have no excuse. (Except for July and August. My father taught me that even God goes to Vermont in the summer. I would have thought Tuscany, but that’s His call.).
Why didn’t I go to church for seven months? I Just Didn’t Feel Like It.
But now I have to go, because my daughter is being confirmed in the spring. I have to remind everyone that I am still in the parish, not like those church cheaters who just pop in on Christmas and Easter. Or maybe October, if they want their daughter to have a shot at being Mary in the pageant.
Anyway, yay, church! I’m back!
Walking in was a little embarrassing, though. Everyone was very nice, of course (it’s church!), but it has been a while. How could I have missed the Easter service, just because my teenagers wanted to sleep late and “incense makes us sneeze”?
Ever the multi-tasker, I used my view from the pew to scour the congregation to see if anyone got a facelift over the summer. (I don’t think so — that’s not very Episcopalian. The meds might react badly with the martinis.) Meanwhile, the sermon was worth the price of admission — seven months’ worth of missed offerings, to be exact. I love how the rector can interpret scripture to make even things like repenting sound like fun.
But seriously, my church has been there for me during some very difficult times. The least I can do in return is show up on Sundays, and that’s what I’m going to do from now on.
Most of the time.
Today will be last time I throw something in the garbage because I am too lazy to find a place for it.
I’m not talking about things like the toaster I pitched into the trash last week, that only toasted bread on one side. I used it that way for months, putting the bread in twice so I could toast both sides, before it hit me: “I really shouldn’t have to do this.” So I went to the mall and bought a toaster at Williams-Sonoma that looks like something from the Jetsons. That felt good.
No so good was the pile of furniture, clothes, toys and dishes that I giddily cast into the dumpster when I was having the ceiling in my basement fixed three years ago. I spent all weekend running around the house finding things to throw away. By the time I was finished, the dumpster was bursting and there wasn’t enough room for the old ceiling pieces, so the contractor had to rent a second dumpster. Which meant it cost me $500 to throw away my crap.
For my next round of purging, my neighbor, let’s call her Annie, and I decided to have a garage sale. That went fine, but as you know, there’s always a lot of junk left after a garage sale. The dregs of your belongings, the items you couldn’t even give away. Annie’s husband, let’s call him Mitch, is very ecology-conscious and doesn’t believe in throwing things in the garbage that will end up in a landfill and destroy the environment. He puts them in his basement instead. So even though I had promised Annie that if she had a garage sale with me we would put everything left out in the trash pile, and she wouldn’t have to haul stuff back into her house that she never wanted to see again, Mitch couldn’t bear to go along with that. So after the sale, not only did Annie have all of her leftover stuff sitting in her basement, she had all of mine.
Another strategy I would not advise to dispose of belongings is tossing them out a window. It seemed like a good idea at the time: When my mother was selling the house I grew up in, her attic was full of junk she couldn’t bear to part with. Sorting through it, piles and piles of it, she’d agree to throw something away, like a deflated basketball or box of our old school notebooks, then change her mind. It got so frustrating, I threatened to just fling things out the attic window. Then I started doing it. It was so much fun, my mother started doing it, too. Whee! went Barbies and torn paperbacks, out the window. Whoosh! went grungy pillows and comforters. (Good lord, I sound like Dr. Seuss.) We were just finishing up — and, if memory serves, polishing off a bottle of wine we snuck up there — when my dad found us and said, “You’d better come outside.” So we did. Dad pointed to the house. Under the attic window was the roof over our front porch, which was now covered with our stuff. And we didn’t have a ladder tall enough to get it off.
With a little extra effort, I can find places for things I don’t need anymore. There are two churches in our town that have huge attic sales every year; there are charities that pick up items, and bins for used clothes at the grocery store. I can take advantage of that.
Today I’ll throw something away that I really shouldn’t, because I told you I would. Maybe a bike my kids have outgrown, or an old stereo.
But I’m going to cheat. Before the trash pickup, I’m going to tell Mitch it’s out there.