I’ve written a bit about my activities in Africa, but leaving my family to go on safari was just as adventurous. Any parent who has tried to leave town without the kids knows that getting away is never smooth, no matter how much advance planning you do.
I had learned my lesson several years ago, when Bill and I were getting ready to go to California for our tenth anniversary trip. I went to get a manicure and pedicure so I’d be super sexy while Bill and I rekindled our love among the vineyards.
Then my cell phone rang. It was Porter’s teacher calling to say that he had fallen and busted his lip and needed to go to the emergency room. I sprayed my nails with quick dry spray, sped to the school and got Porter, who was wailing. His lip was swollen like he’d been in a boxing ring. He ran to me and jumped in my arms, messing up my freshly painted toes, and we rushed to the emergency room.
The doctor stitched up Porter, and then we went home and I figured I was finally going to get a chance to pack and perhaps touch up my smudged toenails. But I didn’t. We walked in the house and the first place Porter went was to show his brothers his stitches, and the next place he went was to visit his guinea pig.
At first he thought Ladybug was really cold and still, but then I checked her and pronounced her dead. I had to dig a grave, which ruined my manicure. Then I gathered the boys together and held a memorial service in the front yard. I even used some florist wire to make a cross out of two sticks to mark the grave. It’s still there.
I got to California the next day with a suitcase of mismatched clothes and a bottle of nail polish remover. I felt depleted, not sexy and celebratory, but fortunately Bill took that as a challenge.
I wasn’t going to let my departure get screwed up again. I was leaving my boys for fifteen days to go to Africa and I was determined to spend some quality time with them.
The day before I left I planned to get the boys a haircut and take them out for Blizzards so they’d have fond memories of me while I was gone. We got to Athena Salon and Finn got a haircut first. (I use the term “haircut” loosely; Teppie waved her scissors around his head and charged me some money so we could tell Bill he’d been to get his hair cut, but he kept his long hair.)
Drew settled into the chair next and I whispered to Teppie that he’d had a run in with a louse but that he had been treated. She cut his hair carefully, looking for signs of re-infestation, but everything was clear.
Porter was the last to hop into the chair. Teppie started cutting and then suddenly stopped and motioned me over.
“Look,” she whispered discreetly, pointing to a spot on Porter’s scalp. I peered at the area, and this time I didn’t try to fool myself into thinking my child was suffering from an albino flea attack. I clearly saw a louse.
“Since there’s a live bug, I can’t legally cut his hair,” Teppie said apologetically. “It’s against the State Board Regulations.”
“A BUG! WHERE?” Porter yelled. The salon was full of coiffed ladies from the Kingdom, and every head in the salon turned to look at us. Finn and Drew came running up to take a look for themselves.
“SHHH!” I said, entirely too loud, and Teppie and I gathered up all the boys and hustled them into the highlighting room to reinpect everyone’s head, including mine. Everyone except Porter passed. I was near hysterics, realizing that instead of spending my last hours with my boys reading and snuggling, I would be slathering them with Rid, combing their hair, stripping their bedding and washing it in hot water, then tumbling it dry on super high.
I went ahead and stopped at Dairy Queen for Blizzards in an attempt to atone for the upcoming misery and drove across the street and bought myself a large Starbucks. I figured that with all the hair washing and laundering that lay ahead of me, I would be lucky to sleep at all before it was time to leave for the airport.
As I drove home, I called Bill at the office to let him know what was going on. He wasn’t nearly as worked up as I was, and that made me furious until I realized that he had not witnessed the initial washing and combing during Attack of the Lice Part 1. Nor had he ever washed an entire set of bedding, from mattress cover to comforter to pillowcases, much less four sets.
“You know,” I told him, “I’m having flashbacks to the day before we left on our 10th anniversary trip.”
“What happened that day?” he asked, confused.
“Don’t you remember? I went to get a manicure and pedicure and then Porter had to get stitches and we came home and I was going to pack scented candles and lacy underthings but the guinea pig had died so I had to conduct a guinea pig funeral?”
“I don’t remember any of that,” Bill said. “I just remember going to California. Remember that infinity pool that we soaked in after our couples massage?”
“Yes,” I said, momentarily diverted.
“Now that was something worth remembering,” Bill said, and he hung up.
And so my final pre-African hours were spent battling the lice and washing piles of bedding. At last I tucked each boy into a sleeping bag and kissed them good night. I missed them already, bugs and all.