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Nice side of lice

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It had already been a pretty bad week. But Mrs. Kravitz’s phone call Friday afternoon turned it into a really lousy one. Literally.

“I have bad news,” Mrs. Kravitz said breathlessly. “Beauty Girl has lice.”

As soon as she said the words, Smartmom’s head started to itch. Like mad. Beauty Girl is the Oh So Feisty One’s best friend and she had slept over a few nights before. In fact, the girls had tried on each other’s clothing and shared a pillow.

“I’m really, really sorry,” Mrs. Kravitz said her voice dripping with genuine remorse. “But you better check OSFO’s head. She probably has it, too.”

Smartmom’s head was, in addition to itching, spinning. She barely knew what to do first. In a state of suspended dread, she called Hepcat at the Edgy Computer Startup.

“Are you going out to Boro Park?” he asked referring to the Orthodox Jewish nit-picker, the go-to gal when it comes to lice in Park Slope. OSFO had been there once during a previous lice scare at PS 321.

Abby Goldfard, who’s even been profiled in the New Yorker, has 10 children and an examination room with bright fluorescent lighting, where she checks heads, removes the little buggers, and charges a tidy sum.

But it’s worth every penny when you get one of those notes from school: “A child in your child’s class has lice…”

But really. There’s no stigma about lice anymore. It’s not some Dickensian scourge or a sign of incipient poverty. All the schools — public, Brooklyn private, even Manhattan private, have outbreaks — lice don’t seem to care if your parents are bond traders or the people marching over the Brooklyn Bridge last week.

But first things first. Smartmom stripped everyone’s bed in the apartment and schlepped all the comforters, sheets, pillowcases, and clothing to the local laundry on Sixth Avenue and Fifth Street.

“Wash this stuff very, very hot,” Smartmom told the elegant Ecuadorian man who has been doing their laundry ever since she and Hepcat moved to Park Slope. “My daughter may have lice,” she said in barely a whisper. The man didn’t even raise an eyebrow.

Back at the building, Smartmom and OSFO checked on Mrs. Kravitz and Beauty Girl. Mr. Kravitz, summoned home early from work because of the lice emergency, answered the door. “I’ve been itching ever since they told me,” he said cheerfully.

Sheets, blankets, and pillows littered the hallway. Their mattresses were in an upright position on the beds.

“I’m in here checking BG’s hair,” Mrs. Kravitz called from the bathroom. “Do you want a glass of wine?”

Before Smartmom could answer, Mr. Kravitz placed a tall glass of Chardonnay in her hand.

Sitting on the toilet seat, Mrs. Kravitz examined BG’s hair, slathered white with Pantene Hair Conditioner, with a fine-tooth comb.

“This is how the lady in Boro Park does it,” Mrs. Kravitz said with a high degree of competency. “I’m finding a lot here.” She proudly showed Smartmom what she was finding in BG’s hair.

Gross.

Smartmom knew what she had to do. She trekked over to Palma Pharmacy for supplies: hair conditioner, paper towels, and a nit-picking comb. On the way home, she stopped at Shawn’s for bottles of Chardonnay and Shiraz; and Fish Tales, for an assortment of sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls. Might as well make it a party.

Once the sushi buffet was set up on Mrs. Kravitz’s dining room table, and the new bottles decanted, it was Smartmom’s turn to sit on the toilet seat and nit-pick through OSFO’s hair. Smartmom held her breath in anticipation of what she would find.

“It’s coming up clean,” Mrs. Kravitz exclaimed. “What a relief.” Smartmom felt like crying.

“I want lice,” OSFO whined.

“What?” the two moms exclaimed in unison. WHY DO YOU WANT LICE?

“Because then I’ll get a lot of attention.” The two moms rolled their eyes. Trust me. You’re getting plenty of attention, Smartmom assured her. Plenty.

Once they were done nit-picking, it was time for a festive sushi feast. “You better have Hepcat check your head,” Mrs. Kravitz said balancing a California roll on her chopstick. Smartmom poured herself another glass of wine.

After the Lice Party, Hepcat did check Smartmom’s head and found nothing. Woo Hoo. No bugs, no eggs. Smartmom and OSFO had dodged the lice bullet once again. And had a little sushi party in the process.

Not such a lousy day, after all.


Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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