Simone versus nits
Simone came home from school one day infested with head lice. Thus began a long battle for Honorine…
Inthe first year of nursery school, what a joy it is to see your child grow up a little more each day, gradually learning about the alphabet, colours and numbers, and beginning to interact with other children. What a surge of emotion sweeps over you at the end of the day on finding in her clammy, still chubby little hand a crumpled piece of paper covered in black scribbles as she announces: “Look, mummy, it’s you!”
That first year of nursery school with its necklaces made out of pasta, its paper garlands, its afternoon teas for parents, Christmas choir and “collective e-mails from well-meaning parents” always ready to help. “Who can make a cake?” “Who can accompany the class to the cinema?” “Lola cannot find her cuddly toy. Has your child taken it home by mistake?” And so forth… I never usually reply. I’m far too selfish for that sort of thing. I content myself with skimming over the contents of the e-mails and focus more on the “well-meaning” parents’ addresses so that I can look them up later on Facebook. It’s far more instructive and, to be truthful, much more fun: “Theo’s parents have nothing to complain about. They regularly go off to their country house in Normandy. Cool.” Those are roughly the only constructive thoughts I have about Simone’s life at school.
Only one e-mail from Jules’ dad has managed to capture my attention since the beginning of the school year: “Beware: head lice are back!”
Hairwise, I’d say mine is somewhere between a bale of hay and Aerosmith’s singer’s mane. While Simone’s is pretty easy to tame, mine, on the other hand, is a genuine adventure playground for lice, complete with ideal climate, giant slides and endless hideaways. A true Disneyland for nits. On reading this e-mail, I immediately planned a whole strategy: windows open, bottle of Prioderm, a pot of Ben & Jerry’s, Albert’s clippers, etc.
I got home at 6pm, and before even saying hello to Simone, I leapt on her and started looking through her hair like a monkey. I didn’t need a second opinion. She had nits everywhere. She was literally infested. I ran into the bathroom and squirmed about in front of the mirror only to discover strings of nits clinging onto the bundle of hay above my head. I had, of course, been scratching my scalp for some time, but I stupidly imagined that it was due to the change of season or to the intensely creative period I was going through.
I dashed out to the pharmacy as if my house were on fire and bought everything I could lay my hands on. Benjamin, the chemist, looked at me with a mix of exasperation and pity, trying to explain that I didn’t need the whole range, that one treatment would be sufficient… I took no notice and spent over 150 euros on anti-lice products: natural treatments, repellent shampoos, electric combs, conditioners, sprays. If mixing with other people weren’t so difficult for me, I would have happily shampooed the whole building. In short, I rushed home and commenced the battle. First treatment. Then hair rinsed and combed. Second shampoo, hair rinsed and combed again. Sheets, duvets, carpets, cushions, dolls, soft toys, pyjamas, all treated. I was well and truly knackered by so much effort. Albert, naturally, didn’t escape the invasion of these little beasties. He, too, was inspected by the light of my phone and copiously sprayed with disinfectant.
Within a few days, I became so obsessed with the idea that lice had invaded my entire apartment that I began talking to them as I sprayed: “Ha, ha! You’re not so clever, now, you dirty little pests…” After a few weeks, I was even dreaming of them at night, imagining them creeping around everywhere in Hitchcockian fashion, before waking up with a start in a sweat. Always slightly unbalanced, I thought I’d gone completely mad.
It took me a whole month to get rid of them all. The apartment had been transformed into an anti-lice clinic and I nearly started asking visitors to put on a shower cap before they walked through the door. At the end of this long battle, I finally found the courage to reply to Jules’ dad’s e-mail. With my usual honesty, I wrote: “There are none in our home. Good luck, everyone.”