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Thursday, October 4, 2007

"The One When Everyone Had Lice?"

So my friend Ruth calls me and says that her daughter Ellen has lice again.

Or is it still?

But it gets worse. Not only Ellen has it this time, but also two of her sisters.

Ruth and I became fast friends in Italy after arriving there on the same rotator out of Baltimore. We actually met in the restroom during our layover in Frankfurt. No, we didn't share toilet paper between stalls; but we were both waiting to change our daughters' diapers. I remember she asked me when I was due: Sean-Peter was just a bump in my belly at the time and I was at that stage where it might be a baby or it might just be belly fat, so I better not ask. As the mother of five herself, Ruth probably knows when someone's pregnant before they do.

Ruth called me for some commiseration because it's all so unbelievable. And so wrong. We've already been through this!

And the fact that I'm still saying "we" when it is obviously just "she" tells you how wrapped up in each others' lives we were when we were living near each other with Absent Husbands and not several States apart.

Yes, Ruth has also just PCS'd to the States. They left Aviano a couple of weeks after we did. To say that this PCS season was a busy one hardly cuts it. It was horrifically busy. Crazy. Chaotic. Nutso.

And that was just Ruth's experience.

Not only was she essentially going through the PCS rigmarole by herself because her husband was deployed, her daughter Ellen had to up and go get lice. And let me tell you, for anyone who has never experienced a lice eradication regimen, it is excruciating. Really. The equivalent of a part-time job, at least. I know this because Conner had lice a few months prior to Ellen. At the time when I was going through it when my husband was deployed (what is it with that?) I told Ruth that I would not wish the experience upon my worst enemy. Truly. And now she's got it times three. Poor Ruth.

I had such preconceived notions of what it means to have lice. None of those notions exist in Europe. My midwestern sensitivities made me positively shudder to think of having little critters creeping around on my son's head -- or on mine, for that matter. Going to grade school in the 70s, the kids who had lice seemed like to me the kind who also never showered or combed their hair. Since then and the eradication of DDT or other such pesticides (the details of my exhaustive research some six months ago are a bit blurry now), lice has made a comeback and has become yet another of those routine elementary school experiences.

At least in this country. In Europe it never really went away and is treated with complete unconcern and a shrug of the shoulders: it's inevitable and you're just as likely to get it as not. I tried to "protect" Conner by being careful how I told people so it wouldn't spread to any kids who would tease him or give him a hard time, but it's rather impossible to keep something like that a secret. And it quickly became clear that my concern stemmed from my own judgmental attitude -- apparently I was the only one who thought it was a big deal. I stand corrected and justly humbled.

But it is a big deal to get rid of them. And now it seems that we didn't do a good job on Ellen the first go-around and this will probably go down in their PCS Annals as "You remember, The One When Everyone Had Lice?"

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