Something you should know about me: I have this thing for hair. It must have started when Dad was my age: turning forty and convinced that the battle against gray hair was winnable. He would pay me five centavos for every gray I picked. Most of the time, I’d net around 25 centavos, which was already a lot.
I would spend the better part of an hour weaving my fingers through his hair in search of the precious gray. And how I loved it when my nails encountered dandruff! One scratch, and the little flakes would be flying. When we were rooming together in and immediately after college, my sisters were the unwilling targets of my tugging and scratching.
My weird fascination for gray hair, white hair, “dead” hair, dandruff—things that grow in peoples’ heads—continues to this day. (Of course I keep my itchy fingers only to my immediate family, and of course I toe the line when it comes to greasy, clumpy hair.) The hubby would be watching TV and suddenly, there I’d be, happily hunting and scratching. Even the little girl has (almost) learned to live with Mama’s idiosyncrasy.
The other day, I was drying Gianna’s hair when I saw a brown spot. I was about to scratch the thingy when—lo and behold—the darn thing moved! A few frantic twists and turns later, I got the shock of mommyhood: I saw a cootie! I was floored, to say the least.
That night, flashlight and fine-tooth comb in hand, the hubby and I made like Sherlock Holmes and methodically combed Gianna’s hair for relatives of the offending cootie. We found a couple of nits. Who could have brought the cooties there? Not us and not the playmates. It turns out that one of the maids had them and, well, you know how these things spread… (In grade school, Weird Sister felt that she was the only one in her class who didn’t have cooties. She got one from a classmate and planted it in her hair. I’m sure Ma raided the grocery for Pretty Hair—or was that Prell?—Shampoo, the one that “cleans hair, kills lice.”)
The whole thing got me thinking. Funny how we protect our kids from just about everything. We childproof our homes, we spend a fortune on vaccines, we stock up on Lysol and Safeguard and Joy Antibac. And then, a thing like cooties throws us off balance…