Sunday, November 23, 2008

Things that go "crawl" in the night.

“Hello. My name is Rachel Vidoni, and I’m a Germ-A-Phobic.” I thought introductions were necessary here, in case you’re new to my blog or simply need reminding of my neurosis when it comes to all things germy. In fact, if you also belong to this particular support group, you might want to stop reading right now. Put your hands over your eyes and hit the red x up there in the corner. Tune in when I post another blog.

I also understand if, after reading this, you decide you don’t want to know me anymore. Turn in the friendship card. Cancel our coffee date. I don’t blame you.

One of my worst parental fears has come true; I met my neurotic phobia “head-on” if you will, last Saturday morning, when peering through my child’s hair, I found:

The “L” Word.

Yes, the modern day form of Leprosy, those nasty little crawlers that put the fear of God in the hearts of parents everywhere. My poor child was crying (who wouldn’t) and it was one of those moments where I absolutely, positively, had to be the adult lest I scar my child for life.
“You have lice.” I calmly said. “Dad is going out to buy some shampoo.” My child was freaked out, but my reassurance was downright medical. “It’s no big deal. We’ll take care of it, and you’ll be fine.”

At that point I instructed my child to stay in the bathroom (and remain there for hours…) while I slipped into the hallway, gagged, jumped up and down in disgust, and fought back bile and tears. Oh, quit your laughing. I know that if this is the worst thing I have to deal with as a parent I’m pretty lucky. I know that at least it isn’t cancer, or another dread disease. I realize we’ll get over it, and things will be fine. I get it.

Out of respect to my child, I will go no further describing my child’s involvement. But I will let you in on a few things that now go on in my head. (Not on my head, Praise you Jesus.)

First, I have morphed into one big itch. My leg itches-I have body lice. My eye twitches- the suckers are feasting on my cornea. My toe throbs-I’m sure somehow the vermin have found a way inside my muscle wall. I actually considered walking through the house with a blowtorch and a can of Aqua Net. The mass burnings of the Great Plague no longer elude me. My husband and I piled all the potentially “contaminated” articles onto the floor of the toy room, and proceeded to do laundry from there. In fact, I have one more load to go, 7 days later. I have decided that throw pillows are unnecessary; stuffed animals contraband. I have a bid on e-bay for three cases of clear shower caps, which I am considering making a dress requirement for all family and visitors.

I have told only a few family members and close friends-not even wanting to joke about it myself. “What will people think? Will they start staring at my head all the time? Will they refuse to let our children play together?” It’s one of the largest silent social secrets of all time, probably next to swinging. It’s something adults whisper about in hushed tones, only divulging their own personal familial battle after they have seen a friend’s RID bottle wedged between the folds of the newspaper while in line at CVS. It’s that illusion bubble popped, as people wonder, “WE can’t have it! We’re (rich, clean, smart, funny, normal…fill in your adjective).”

This event has transformed the way I see the world, and unfortunately, not for the better.
I am doing errands at Target, and see an employee scratch her head. “I bet she has lice,” I think. A few more employees later, I witness another itcher. “Yep, everyone who works here has it.” I wonder if there are nits lying around on the shopping carts I touch-the backpack from school, the plate the neighbors sent over with cookies. I stare at the backs of people’s heads watching for movement. I cringe (just a little) when my children want to have the neighbors over to watch a movie, or get out all the blankets and make a fort. The movie theatre is one big, fat contamination area. Airplane seats the enemy. My good friend (and secret-lice-sister) suggested taking plastic bags with me and laying them behind my children’s head in any public setting. Now you’re being downright silly, you say. Honey, that’s only part of my problem.

I now check all my children and my husband every night-and have discovered no invaders. One remaining issue resides in the fact that I must trust my husband to look through my hair and detect the undetectable. My husband (bless his heart) can’t find his car keys in the car key drawer. “Where did you find the keys?” he’ll ask as I hand them to him once again. “In the drawer,” I sigh, “where they always are.” “Huh,” he replies. “I thought I looked there.”
You can imagine the solace this gives me, as he exclaims, “No honey, don’t see a thing.” Since I have little confidence that he would be able to find anything, (were there anything to find) I shampooed with the special stuff twice, blow dry my hair every night- making sure to sufficiently burn my scalp in all areas-pull it back into a ponytail, and refuse to scratch my head with my fingers, lest I should accidentally get an invisible nit under my fingernails, and pass it along to one of my family. Would you like to have coffee now?

The people I have told, have been very supportive. One of my good friends told me that lice only like really clean heads, so I should take that as a compliment. She informed me that people who are homeless don’t have lice, because their heads can be so dirty. Well, if that’s the case, I’m packing the children up tomorrow because I found a perfect bench on the Common, with a fab view of the Frog Pond.

I had never heard this particular assertion, so I did a little research. There is enough conflicting web information to make a person scratch their head. Lice is hard to get rid of. It’s easy to get rid of. Lice only like clean heads. Lice don’t care how clean your head is, as long as you have one. Cover your head in mayonnaise and wear a shower cap to bed. NEVER use mayonnaise and a shower cap, it’s bad for you. Lindane is the best pesticide to get rid of the bugs. Lindane is an incredibly toxic chemical and should never, never be used to get rid of lice. The best yet, was that gasoline and kerosene get rid of lice. The one side effect is you might unintentionally off your kids. There were so many mixed messages, that the blowtorch and Aqua Net idea started sounding logical. My mother poo-pooed me. MY mother. The woman who handed me her phobia genes, said, “Rachel, relax. It’s like you’re trying to kill a fly with a brick.”

Well, at least I would know the fly is dead. I am nothing, if not psychotically thorough.
As my child complains about having to sit still for an hour while I comb my child’s hair, I think to myself, “There will a come a day, when you’ll be glad I was so nit-picky.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy Historic Day

"The experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself-always changing,
infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more
valuable for having been tested by adversity."
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr

Today I woke up-started the coffee, found my three kids happily playing in bed together. Everyone dressed early, fixed their hair, ate a quick muffin and half a banana. Together we watched various news channels, as commentators, authors, government officials and everyday citizens voiced opinions and sentiments about our United States of America. My hair is unfixed; I’ve no makeup on. I’m in my sweats ready to sit in front of the computer for hours and hours working today. My youngest daughter has a runny nose, my middle daughter’s socks do not match, and my son no doubt forgot something he was supposed to take to school. Today is like every other day.

And yet, today is like no day we have ever lived or witnessed before.

I’m trying to capture all the details of these moments, because the events of last night and this morning will forever be enshrined in school text books, encyclopedia’s; the invisible stone tablets of “the past” will now carry the carvings of now. I’m trying to impress upon my children, that they are living in a time when all things really are possible. That in a short span of 50+ years, our nation has gone from prohibiting black citizens of our country from eating in restaurants, drinking from fountains, having equal opportunities for quality education, to electing a black President who moved hundreds of thousands of people to vote, take an interest in national politics, and congregate in multitudes on the streets of every town to watch this final journey.

Regardless of how you voted, regardless of your political viewpoints and party choice, you must admit, today is an historic day. Notice where you are, what you’re doing, things you thought and feared. You’ll be regaling your grandchildren (maybe great-grandchildren) with the stories of “I remember when Obama was elected President.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Benefits and Consequences of Choice

Just returned home from voting. Yes, the Good American that I am fulfilled the duty-pinnacle of what it means to be a thriving member of our society. I can’t help but feel like someone who has purchased 100 dollars in lottery tickets for the billion-dollar pot, hoping my numbers will be drawn. Like when I hold two movies behind my back for the kids, because they can’t seem to agree on what to watch- the nation is holding those movies behind it’s back and I’m jumping up and down with my fingers crossed hoping mine gets picked. My husband voted earlier in the day, and since he has been home from the voting booth, the TV has been on, and will remain so until a winner is announced. In fact, there are only a few times in our lives when TV watching becomes the meth-drug we can’t live without; the OJ Simpson trial, the Bush-Gore presidential race, and the events of 9/11. My husband and I will be sucked in again, and no one-I repeat, no one- will be allowed to change the station. Not even to watch the weather, and we watch the weather channel a lot.

I admit it did feel good to vote, even if my vote doesn’t really count. I know everyone says all votes count, but not really. Those electoral votes are the ones that count-not the popular vote in which each person’s voice is really heard. (Remember the Gore-Bush election? Good ol’ Al did rise from the ashes to make a pretty fab documentary though.) But the fact that I get to make a choice, that I could walk into that voting place, fill in the bubbles of my choice, and then drive home without threat to my life, or the risk of bodily injury is one great benefit of our freedoms.

Regardless of who I voted for, when it comes down to the winner, I’m going to have to be satisfied even if it wasn’t my pick. That’s the consequence of choice- that there will be a majority, and the majority will win, even if it wasn’t my majority. If the person I voted for doesn’t get elected, I have more choices still. I can choose to bitch and whine about that person for the next four years-blame him for all the problems in our nation and rant and rave about how “I’m not responsible, because I didn’t choose him.” Again, I’ll be free to do this because I live in America, and as American’s we have a fundamental right to complain. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a presidential race where someone didn’t say, “I’m voting for the lesser of two evils,” or express their belief that our choices just “aren’t that great.” And when the winner is announced all heck will break loose (I hope I'm wrong here) as people claim voter fraud, miscounted and uncounted votes, and general election mishandling. After all, it’s only a fair system when your movie is chosen at random from behind your back. The other person no doubt, got screwed.

The ability to choose things in this great country has trickled down to the younger generations, where we give children the right to choose their lunch options at school, what they want to wear each day, how they would like their meals prepared, and what they want to be for Halloween. In fact, the ability to choose has gone a little far when it comes to Halloween and trick-or-treating.

When I was a kid, you went door-to-door, said the obligatory, “Trick-or-treat,” and then held out your bag while the man or woman holding the door open plopped something in your bag. Once home, mom and dad made you dump the sugar-booty onto the carpet, where they sat to inspect said merchandise. The pinnacle of the night (for me anyway) was to organize that candy into similar groupings. After grouping those treats, it was then you realized that the majority of your candy consisted of Dum-Dum lollipops, Double-Bubble chewing gum and Tootsie rolls. There was the sprinkling of mini-sized chocolate bars, to be savored for sure, because even my father was prone to steal those out of our bags, leaving us the stupid hard candy, gum and Laffy Taffy. They call those lollipops Dum-Dum for a reason.

The climate of choice has now drifted into the long-standing trick-or-treat tradition and forever changed the I-only-got-candy-that-sucked atmosphere. I had to farm out my older two children this year for trick-or-treating, because my husband was out of town on business. I was not able to watch them scamper up to doors, ring the bell, say thank you, and run to the next house. So my son trots home after a few hours, and proceeds to dump the contents of his pillowcase (I know, how gluttonously horrific) on the kitchen table. Piles of candy spill out, including 5 or 6 full size candy bars, and tons and tons of chocolate. One piece of Double-Bubble, and only two Dum Dums. Mind you, we only visit houses on two streets-the same two streets each October. “Wow,” I exclaim. “The neighbors sure were generous this year.” My son nods, and begins choosing the 20 pieces I let him keep. The rest gets put in a bowl for my husband’s office.

About an hour later, in waltzes my daughter with her normal size Halloween bag, and proceeds to spill the contents out for inspection. My daughter easily has less than half the amount her brother collected. Almost everything in my daughter’s pile is a Reese’s peanut butter cup. “Did you go to both streets?” I ask her. She nods in affirmation at which point I yell: “SON! GET UP HERE!”

My son trots in (again)—“What?”
“Why do you have so much more candy than your sister?”
Shrugs with creeping smile.
“Did the neighbors let you pick the candy?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he replies.
“Did you take MORE THAN ONE PIECE?” I ask incredulously.
“Well, they all kept telling me to take a handful, take a handful, so I did.”
“You actually took handfuls of candy from the neighbor’s bowls? I don’t even let you keep all that candy? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?”
Shrugs again. “I was just doing what they said,” he tells me.
I’m wondering what Emily Post would suggest in my situation. Apology notes for the whole neighborhood? Personal door-to-door handing back of excess candy taken? Wear a black bag over my head in ridicule for having a 9 year-old boy act like a 9-year old boy? When did kids start getting a choice in what they received in their trick-or treat bags? When did neighbors start lowering the bowl and state, “Choose what you like honey?” And when did the candy morph from crappy starlight peppermints and Dum Dums, to all chocolate bars?

Choice. While my son chose to pillage the neighbors bowls (they asked him to of course), he still had to choose only 20 to keep. All that extra bounty for nothing. My daughter chose to take the high road and only take one, but the same one over and over. She is now getting sick of peanut butter cups and wants to trade with her brother and her friends. In good American fashion, they’re both complaining that they never get enough candy-they wish they would have gotten different stuff, they made a mistake, next year they're going to...blah, blah, blah.

Looks like they’re on the road to becoming good voting citizens.