Our family’s Exodus story began with a plague of sorts. Michael and I had been looking forward to our trip back east with much anticipation. We both had been working very hard and couldn’t wait to get away with our kids and visit his family on the East coast. Leading up to our trip I had been working long days at a job that I love but with the death of my dad just a month earlier the idea of being away on a relaxing trip was honestly all I could think about lately. I just kept seeing us all on the airplane laughing and leaving all the stress of Los Angeles behind us. It was on the airplane that our plague began or I should say was revealed.
Asher and Tova kept scratching their heads. I mean really scratching, hard. Scratching behind the ears, scratching behind the neck, I had seen this before and panic was starting to take over. We had dealt with lice one time about two years before so I knew it could be a huge nightmare. I quietly checked Tova’s head but couldn’t see any bugs. I am flipping through her brown hair with my fingers while Michael is beginning to look through Asher’s blonde locks. Michael offers up that he thinks they are scratching because their heads must have been sunburned at Disneyland on Sunday when I took them. Okay, so is he in denial or is he making a wisecrack at my poor sun screening abilities. Either way it was not helpful and as the stewardess announced our decent into New York I turned around and told Michael we need to get to a drug store, tell his sister immediately and book a hotel because there is no way in hell we can stay with them and risk infesting them with this plague!
One of the reasons the plagues came down so hard on the Egyptians was because Pharaoh had hardened his heart. I started to feel like Pharaoh because my heart was becoming very hard and I could see Michael’s heart was becoming hard or angry and annoyed at me for sure. Understandably, he told me to chill out. You know in that not so loving way a very tired husband and father does when he see’s his wife’s head about to spin off her neck. Well, as you can imagine that was very helpful and I of course totally “chilled out” yeah, right! Let the spin begin!
Now what happens next was our punishment for being unable to contain our own emotions during this intense exchange in very tight quarters. As I am fuming and Michael is squinting at me. Asher stands up while all the passengers are slowly taking the luggage from the overhead bins and inching there way forward. He starts his monologue by scratching his head, hard of course, and says (in his unusually loud inside voice), “Mom you’re so paranoid we don’t have lice our heads are just sunburned. Geeez!” Yes, that is the moment when all those poor folks sitting around us had been brought into our own personal hell. Is humiliation a plague?
One realization I had which is not a pleasant one of myself as a Jew during our personal plague was I think I would have wound up dead on the shore of Red Sea being trampled by Egyptians. Sadly, I needed to be carried across by my husband. I didn’t have it in me this time. Instead what was swimming in me was hopelessness and a victim shadow of myself that I haven’t seen in a long time. She had crumbled, just like the matzah story from last week; I was angry and hard, unable to see my way out. I just kept saying to my husband, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this!” I just wanted to relax and have fun. Having lice is not fun! Spending all this money on a “Lice Lady” is not fun. I couldn’t let it go and I couldn’t stop crying.
Then I realized what I was most upset about was the fact that this was so out of my control. That was it- I felt completely out of control and guilty. I believed it was my fault that we wound up in this position. I am clearly a horrible mother. If I was home more I would have seen my kids scratching their heads and this would have been dealt with in a timely manner not being discovered by me while on the airplane. I felt out of control about my dad’s death, about my career, about my kids, about just about everything. Plain and simple the illusion of my control over my life and my family was again shattered in a public and expensive way by the plague of lice. I was pissed off.
Michael’s sister found a hotel and a lice treatment center in Brooklyn that would send out a wonderful woman, named Rachel, who for $125.00 an hour would clean, scrub and de-louse all of us. The total time was 6 hours. You do the math! Oh plus products of course at $20.00 a pop. Michael and I pulled together with the enormous help from Cathi, his amazing and calm sister. So for the first day of our vacation we sat in her kitchen all of us around the table while Rachel worked her magic. Cathi washed all of the clothes in our luggage while I sat in a daze drinking coffee from Dunkin Doughnuts.
You see the case was so bad that she suggested we wash everything that had been in our house. My kids were in stage 3 out of 4 stages; I was just beginning stage 2. My husband was not infected at all. None of my nieces were infected nor was Cathi or her husband. Cathi held me up and laughed while she vacuumed her whole house and sprayed her cushions with Rachel’s bug spray praying no bugs jumped off of our heads. Cathi also would have saved me from the Egyptians this Passover.
It became very clear to me this weekend that in life the key to survival is not that your own strength always come forth during challenging times but that you also surround yourself with people who when they witness you crumbling rise to catch you and carry you across to the other side.
*If your family ever has this plague contact:
On the East Coast- www.Licelifters.com
On the West Coast- www.hairwhisperers.com
(This was not the expensive company we first used but an amazing female owned business we found while in Philly to do a “re-check” of us. These both employ the latest technology which is a LouseBuster machine that makes the process of getting rid of the lil buggers less expensive and less time consuming)