I am not, in a general sense, afraid of bugs.
Perhaps that's because I grew up in a rural corner of Rhode Island, and spent much of my youth pulling ticks off various dogs and ponies, swatting mosquitos, and as a younger child, catching caterpillars and feeding them leaves in the hopes that they would hurry up and morph into butterflies before my very impatient eyes.
Still, few things strike fear in my heart like those tiniest of creepy crawlers.
We were having a successful morning, despite a couple of false starts in the wardrobe department, caused by the local news erroneously reporting a thirty degree change in the weather. The Grape, Lila the Dog and I were precisely on time for preschool drop off.
I waltzed him happily to the door, only to be greeted by a sign, positioned at adult eye level, proclaiming, "HEAD LICE."
I opened the door, still processing what this would mean for our weekend, and there was one of the Grape's teachers. "Head lice," I said, in lieu of greeting. It wasn't a question or a statement; it hung somewhere in the middle in a you've-got-to-be-f-ing kidding-me tone. She laughed and said good morning. I regrouped and remembered to engage in some basic social niceties. The teacher told me that an older sibling of a classmate - not one of the Grape's classmates - had lice.
Phew. Weekend from hell pushed to next week.
But probably not averted.
In kindergarten, I brought home head lice from the nun school my parents had enrolled me in, for some strange reason they can no longer recall. (We weren't Catholic.) This is relevant because my friend K.'s mom (who was Catholic) swore that our teacher, Sister Mary, was the source of the nits. She was always scratching her head under that veil thing they had to wear.
My mom, on the other hand, blamed K., whose mother's house keeping fell short of my mom's unattainable Scandinavian standards.
Whatever the source, louse infestation was awful. The prescription shampoo burnt my scalp and the hours of fine tooth combing made me mental. And that was all I had to endure, albeit two or three times, since the outbreak kept circling through the school.
My poor mother had to bomb the house, boil the sheets, wash every piece of fabric and upholstery, steam the rugs and probably delouse the dog for good measure.
And then my younger brother caught them (not from a nun) and the process repeated start to finish, with a few modifications.
I was placed on the kitchen stool and my long blonde curls were unceremoniously hacked into a short pageboy cut.
My mother started buying wine by the case.
Throughout the autumn months, Sister Mary kept scratching her head.
I suppose that when I collect the Grape this afternoon, I'll know whether we've dodged the nit bullet. Until then, I'll be at my desk, fighting the urge to scratch phantom itches and googling whether cats and dogs can catch lice from a toddler.