Standing in the Shadows

Hair

If Monday afternoon seemed for longhaired Remy a personal licefest 2012, amazingly by Wednesday morning the coast of his scalp was clear. Pediculicide, groovy natural potions, alcohol, witch hazel, olive oil, vacuum cleaners, dryers, and 14 dollar nit comb later, it seemed that the investigation in how to rid one’s persons and domicile of tiny menacing bugs was relatively thorough. Amongst the things not tried: Suave coconut conditioner, Cetaphil, and Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap. That’s to say once you start digging (nit humor) there are many possible ways to debug.

Saskia likes her enforced haircut

For all the good news, the looming, harsh truth was this: without a buzz cut, even nit-free, Remy couldn’t go to camp. That’s hair to his back to practically none in a five-day span. That’s a lifetime (nine years) of identity. That’s a security blanket he never had to hold, just to let sit on his back, day and night, rain or shine, hot or freezing outside. He wasn’t a ponytail guy, ever. That hair was his faithful companion.

Mad, sad, denial, bargaining, whatever—the stages of grief were his (and thus, ours). We tried to let him come to it on his own, to reckon with the notion that life trumps hair. But he wasn’t quite having it.

He’s the kid you cut the tags out of the shirt when requested for, the kid who never tolerated the loud restaurant, and he’s the agreeable boy who rarely asks for much and so you are reluctant to take anything away from him.

Sometimes, being a parent sucks. Enough said.

Because eventually, we had to say life trumps hair. Hair grows. Camp is too fun to sit out, all those be-the-parent things. We had to deal with an intensive round of madsaddenialbargaining and giant, engulfing grief that came without words, because he couldn’t explain, not really, what made this hair so important. You will recall that by then, his hair was about chin-length.

I’ll show you the mint tins he pounded with a hammer outside and I’ll spare you the miserable attempt to get someone at a salon to buzz him. I will say that on that long, long, long afternoon the dear husband turned to me and said, “You never told me about this part. I didn’t sign up for this.”

Yeah.

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Of course he was FINE. Now, he’s at camp!

Photo by Papa/Hosie Baskin

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His friend Max is at camp, as well and when they arrived, it turned out that Max had nits. And guess where Max’s little brother Henry, one of the world’s single most adorable and amenable toddlers ever was at that very moment? He was at our house. The next moment, he was outside—where we stayed for the entire afternoon. The fumigation began again (and he was treated, for some $$, by Mim, because we also learned there’s a business opportunity of the public service variety in nit-picking; numerous bigger cities have such businesses in place).

Did the anxiety that coursed through my body as I vacuumed and laundered and wiped and said, “Henry, that hat has to stay on your head, friend,” feel like Monday 2.0? Yeah. Could I almost see the humor in the situation? Yeah. Make that almost, not quite.

Henry on a better day, complete with fudgsicle

I imagine the long, handwritten letter describing the events of Sunday the day Max got buzzed and Henry got deloused in Saskia’s driveway will make Remy chuckle a few afternoons from now.

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My takeaways in no particular order:

Lice are not my friends.

Sometimes, being the grownup sucks.

Kids are, just like they always tell you when bad things happen, resilient.

Life trumps hair.

I like couches (in a week, we’ll get to use ours again).

Humor and friends are both allies when things are tough.

Quoting We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We have to go through it.”

By the time he’s back from camp, Remy will have more hair.

© 2014 The Valley Advocate