Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Flied Lice

There is one thing about France that will probably surprise you - it is rife with lice. They are everywhere, and cross every social, racial, and economic boundry. As the French as fond of saying, "Lice are not snobs."
The first time my twins caught lice was when we lived in Bordeaux. We lived in Margaux, actually, right in the center of the wine-making region. Our house was the west wing of a chateau - we were the west wing, the cellars were in the right wing, and the chateau was in the middle. I used to say we had the best view - we had a view of the chateau. There were two charming girls in the chateau who, every morning, went to with a chauffeur to a private school in Bordeaux while I drove my twins to the local public school. The girls, after school, came to my house and played with the twins. One day, I noticed that one of them had lice. I checked my sons. They had lice too. In fact, everyone did. The nice thing about lice is that they share easily. The bad thing about them is that they are tough critters and it takes a dedicated treatment to get rid of them.
Who had them first? The private school or the public school? Actually, as both the Directors said in apologetic tones, "Zee lice are every year in zee school." All schools.
I was aghast. When I was a child in rural NY state, a strange nurse would come twice a year and walk with her heavy shoes up the rows as we sat, heads bowed, hands folded, waiting while she stopped and peered at our scalps, tilting our heads so she could see behind our ears and necks where the lice like to lay their nits. And if, by chance, a child had lice, it was a momentous event. The child was sent home, and all the other kids laughed and called him/or her 'Booger head' or worse. Having lice in the US was worse than having your father in prison. You were ostrasized.
The French were horrified when I told them this. Lice treatments are sold in every grocery store with the shampoo section. The bottles are pink and purple, and called pretty names like 'Marie Rose'. There are 'natural' sprays to help keep the lice away made from lavender oil, and there are a plethoria of shampoos and creams destined to wipe out the infestation. Because that's what it is. You never have a louse. You have lice.
And that's what my daughter has.
It (They) came from her school. Her friend Justine's mother called me and told me she was treating Justine. Or maybe it came from my friend's daughter - she went to the south of France and stayed with a woman in a manor house, and the woman's daughter had lice that she'd caught from school, most likely, and this woman's daughter spent the night at our house. Or it could be from the pony club. My daughter tried on a helmet the other day. At any rate, we have bought a pretty pink bottle of 'Marie Rose', and I'm borrowing a nit comb from my neighbor (most everyone has at least one nit comb, but I admit to losing mine. We haven't had lice in the house for years. This is the first time, actually, since we lived in London. Oh, yes, there were lice in England too. I bought lice shampoo in Harrods one day. My sister in law bet me they wouldn't have any, but I told her "They have Everything in Harrods." I was right.
There is a protocol to lice, as there is a protocol to everything in France. One calls the people who are frequent visiters and tells them, and one calls the school and tells the Director. One warns ones child not to share bonnets and scarves in the wintertime. Then you do your best to iradicate the creatures. You wash the sheets, the pillowcases (every day during the treatment) and you wash the sweaters, hats, and since my daughter has a parka with a hood - that gets washed too. I tell the people whose children come for English lessons. They just shrug, and we chat about lice and how hard it is to get rid of them.
Everyone is fatalistic when it comes to lice in France.
As they French love to say, "C'est la vie."


Mark Reep said...

Hey, Sam- Guess whatever parts of the world we call home all have their, ah, unique challenges, don't they. Yarrgh :)

Just a note, actually, to say thanks (rather belatedly) for your recommend of 'Spirited Away.' Haven't seen the film yet, but we did run across a copy of the accompanying book the other day in Borders. Lot of great environments and settings, includes comments from the art director, etc. Good stuff.

All the best :)

December Quinn said...

Oh yes, there were lice in England too.

Yep, still are. I was horrified the first time I heard about children with lice--the day after we arrived. My childhood was the same. If a kid had lice, that was a big deal! Their mothers must not have loved them! They lived in filth!

But here, we get the notice at least once per term, it seems. And nobody thinks it's a big deal at all, just a minor annoyance to be dealt with. Like a cold.

Erin the Innocent said...

LOL My head is itchy just reading this!

Gabriele C. said...

Well, now I'm all for lice control at the borders, EU freedom be damned. I don't want the critters back in Germany. :)

Wendy said...

Lice are everywhere! Even in Canada. That is the sad part about lice, the "stigma" that is attached to it if your child has it. When my little one, got the letter and sent home from school, I called a company that we have here, called Licesquad. They were fantastic, as my stress level was very high! I just didn't know what to do and where to start. They not only removed the lice and the nits for me on my daughter but checked the whole family too. Like most Mom's I started boiling everything in sight but they had told me this is not necessary. Check their website for information and cleaning tips! I ended up taking the information to my daughter's school.These guys are the pros!!!

Anonymous said...

Very intriguing! Lice... I'd never have guessed.

Of course americans are shocked at the very idea... but then we also bandy about rumors of the french pouring wine on corn flakes!

Puritans such as us are too forbidding to allow the likes of lice!

Oh... and I'm quite in agreement with you that HTML is the invention of the DEVIL! It can truly drive a person insane.


p.s. I find that with HTML it's often the spacing and padding in the table cells that's at fault. Especially the inivisible characters that you don't realize are there... a seditious language for sure.

Wynn Bexton said...

When I was working in daycare I got lice myself. We were constantly having to check the kiddie's heads and I guess i picked them up from someone when I lay beside them at nap time. I was horrified. Eeeek! I remember my mom telling me that when she was a kid and they discovered lice in their hair my grandma pulled all the blinds down so nobody would see her dousing them with kerosine!
Yes, they know now boundaries. I remember that even Prince Harry had them when he was a little boy.
Horrors, even the royal family!
Here at the moment, there seems to be a plague of bedbugs even in the posh five star hotels! My friend had an infestation and it's taken him weeks to get rid of them, fumagating (professionally) and having to replace his entire bed!
Evidently even the public library is having a problem with them being passed on in the books. Literary bed bugs!