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.
I’ve not yet gotten the hang of housecleaning, now that the babysitter is gone. But hopefully yesterday will be the last time I put my daughter’s camera in the washing machine the morning after she goes to a Katy Perry concert and gets to dance onstage with Katy at Madison Square Garden.
Not that she has any pictures to show for it.
I know you’re supposed to check pockets before you put clothes in the washer. In fact, I have learned about all kinds of interesting activities Patrick has engaged in, just by shaking out his pants in the laundry room. But yesterday I was in a hurry, so I stopped by Kim’s room, scooped up a pile of clothes on her floor, and tossed them in the machine.
I was rushing because I had to get my dog to his dentist appointment.
I know. For years, the babysitter would come back from Dylan’s annual exam with packet of heartworm pills and a warning from the vet that my dog’s teeth had a dangerous degree of plaque. “Ooooh, Dylan forgot to floss!” we’d joke. “Better get him to the dentist or all his teeth will fall out!”
Except now I don’t have a babysitter, so I had to take Dylan to the vet myself, and he made it sound like Dylan’s teeth really were going to fall out. I was already feeling guilty that in the nine years I’ve had a dog, I’d never met the vet before, so I scheduled a dentist appointment, being sure to initial the part of the agreement that said the vet had to call for my approval before they did any surgery on Dylan’s mouth while the dog was under anesthesia.
Then I went home, emptied the washing machine and discovered that the pocket of my daughter’s wet jacket contained her Blackberry and her camera.
Suddenly my dog’s gingivitis didn’t seem like such an emergency.
I grabbed my blow dryer and trained it on the Blackberry, which miraculously sprang back to life. The camera, however, was most sincerely dead.
While I was frantically blow-drying the devices, I missed the call from the vet saying Dylan had a lump on his gum that was probably nothing, but since I hadn’t answered the phone, they’d just go ahead and check it out.
And just like that, the price of my dog’s dentist appointment jumped to $1000, plus a new camera. And, possibly, my daughter’s not speaking to me for a week, though that would have its compensations since she’s thirteen.
Of course, you can’t put a price on a dog you love. But I think I would love Dylan just as much if he was short a few teeth.
I think I can do less preparing for the worst when it comes to my teenage son, and do more hoping for the best. Patrick really seems to have turned a corner, and I don’t mean the one by the gas station that sells beer to minors.
Last night he slept at a friend’s house, and came home at nine this morning instead of sleeping until noon. I asked him if he’d come home so early because his friend had soccer practice. “No,” said my son. “I wanted to come home early to finish the essay for my college application.”
And yesterday, he got a job — the real kind, not the kind where I slip someone a twenty to hire him to pull weeds. Apparently, the owner of a restaurant in town asked around for the name of a responsible boy who was a good worker, and the mother of one of Patrick’s friends recommended Patrick.
I wish instead of getting annoyed yesterday wondering where Patrick was all afternoon, I’d gone out for an omelet. I could have seen him washing dishes at his new job.
Still, I was uneasy. Something is wrong with this happy picture, I stewed. Having been blindsided by bad behavior in the past, I was afraid to trust that things were changing for the better.
I know how to get a cold splash of reality, I thought. I’ll check Patrick’s new school progress report online.
“Effort is good,” I read. “Participates in class.” “Good understanding of concepts.”
What is happening? I thought. Where is Patrick’s real progress report?
Or is there some kind of crazy new drug they are selling at the gas station that turns alienated, churlish teenagers into capable, cheerful “A-” students?
Because I want some of that drug, too.
I went to the basement to congratulate Patrick on his good grades. I found him watching cartoons, surrounded by wet towels, dirty clothes, an empty bag of pretzels and two apple cores.
That’s my boy, I smiled, and went upstairs to make him an omelet.