It was one week after the final day of school and lice had invaded our house. It was an immediate epidemic. The initial attack came with Julianna, but quickly spread to the other heads of our home.
Hats were washed, bed sheets were changed, and stuffed animals were exiled to black trash bags in the basement where they could not be easily retrieved. Our major assault on the invading pests was a nightly hair regiment. First came the special, bad smelling shampoo. This was followed by intense hair combing with a tiny brush. Each bug and egg discovered on the teeth of the comb was immediately, mercilessly drowned. We were not playing around. This was war.
Each of my children responded to the nightly battle differently.
Jude, the three-year-old, refused all attempts at treatment with violence and loud threats. It was as if we were offering him tofu oysters for desert. To our surprise, it turned out his rejection did not slow the war. The bugs, sensing he was hostile territory, chose to leave his scalp untouched.
Logan only required a brief evening glance. The bugs clearly did not find his buzz cut a suitable living environment.
While the idea of creepy-crawlys in her hair troubled her, Julianna loved the nightly preening. She sat happily in front of the TV while Wendy worked strand after stand with the tiny toothed comb. Someone was playing with her hair. She accept the attention with joy and thanksgiving, despite the circumstances.
Jackson, the ten-year-old with a Bieber-esk dew, was where the key engagements with the bugs took place. We would defeat them, but they would surge to life again. Night after night we did battle. It didn’t help that the boy hated the fine comb in his hair. He let us know he was in complete agony. He did not appreciate being the battle field. He wanted the combing to stop. He was willing to surrender to the bugs if it meant we would leave his head alone.
After more treatments than I care to remember, Wendy and I made a peace offering. We gave Jackson a choice: suck it up and let us pick the invaders out until they are gone or let us shave your head. It was a difficult decision for the young lad. He loved his thick locks. He had to go and ponder it for a few minutes. Finally he returned and told us to take it all off.
Being cheap, I decided I didn’t need to pay fifteen bucks at the barber shop for something I could do in the back yard. I can shave a head. How hard could it be? So I sat my son in a lawn chair and went to work.
Now, I don’t own clippers. But I do have a beard trimmer, which looks like mini-clippers. I knew I couldn’t attack my son’s mop directly with the small beard tool, so I made a plan. I would start on the right and work to the left. I would take most of the hair off with scissors, and then finish the job with the tiny trimmer.
It was a disaster from the first snip. The kitchen scissors were dull. I could feel them tugging on his hair as they closed.
Determined, I cut again; but faster, thinking the speed of the snip would decrease the pain.
Tears welled up in my son’s eyes. ”Daddy, can we just go to the barber?” he asked.
“Let me try something,” I said. I had a plan. It was going to work. The two scissor cuts had clears a small patch above his left temple. I flicked on the bread trimmer on. It buzzed quietly. I put it to the small patch I had cleared. For a brief second all was great. The remaining hair fell to the beard trimmer, but then the mini-clippers jammed. The tool was confused. This was not facial hair. It was thicker. It was denser. It was resilient. The trimmer stopped buzzing. I had to yank it from his hair.
Jackson yelped and bolted up for the chair. With intense ten-year-old fury he demanded, “Daddy! Take me to the barber!”
I asked if we could give the plan one more try.
As we left the house, Wendy begged us not to tell the barber our family was plagued by lice. Good barbers who will tolerate three boys in one day are hard to find. She was nervous we would break a long standing relationship if we brought the bugs into our beloved barber’s establishment.
Jackson vowed not to say anything about the lice. To ease her mind, I also promised to take him to a different barber, one who had done a bad job in the past, one we were not interested in frequenting in the future.
The car ride was filled with uneasy silence. Jackson let me know he was angry by glaring out the window and occasionally rubbing the bare patch on his head where the trimmer had jammed and been torn away.
In the waiting room of the barber-shop-we-don’t-usually-attend there were rows of chairs facing a wide screen TV. ESPN was playing. Jackson and I took seats next to each other. After a few moment of silence I said, ”Now remember, Mommy said not to tell them you have lice unless they ask.”
“I won’t tell them about the lice,” Jackson said looking forward. Then, accusingly he added, “But I’m going to tell them it was you who did this to me.”
I laughed. ”That’s fair,” I said.