When I was about seven, maybe eight. I made friends with a neighborhood girl lets call her ‘M’. She was pretty plain Jane looking and she had dishwater blond hair that came straight down on both sides and her bangs were chopped in the front. She was pretty bossy, pretty outspoken but she did happen to make friends with a few people in the neighborhood.
I was at the age where I wanted desperately to have a “Best” friend. I had friends down the street but I wouldn’t say they were my “Best” friends at the time, we had our quarrels like kids do. I saw M at school and when I ventured across the neighborhood to see her. She lived with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend in the upstairs of a vacant downstairs house. The downstairs house was empty but it wasn’t boarded up or anything, but the owner bought another house and didn’t rent out the basement just the upstairs. There was a narrow exterior hallway that went up to the apartment. You opened the door and step into bare floor boards. There was no carpeting and all there was was one counter top, a pedestal sink, an electric stove and a fridge. They had a card table as a kitchen table. The mother also had another small child, a three year old girl. The house reaked of animal feces all the time, it was a little wirehaired terrior mix of some kind and a couple kittens who had no idea what a litter box was. The place was falling apart at the seams, there was no lid on the toilet seat, and the tub was badly stained as were the pedestal sink in the bathroom and the kitchen. The kids had no toys and there was only one bedroom and it was the bedroom of her mother and her boyfriend, it looked like the girls slept on the couch or maybe a pullout or possibly in bed with them, who knows?
One day I went to school and we were doing a screening for lice, which they did once a month or twice a week during outbreaks, which in elementary schools, it happens–and I got my bill of clearance and failed to notice that M had been sent home from school immediately following that.
Desperate for a best friend I invited her over to spend the night, her mother agreed and we prepared for a slumber party. We were getting ready for bed and she looked over at me from across the room and said “My mom told me not to tell nobody something, like a secret.” I looked at her and the first thing I noticed, even being eight I immediately picked up on her lack of proper english.
“What do you mean?”
“Me and P, my sister, we got bugs. You know, the kind on our heads that make you itch.”
I gasped in horror and immediately felt my scalp. Nothing yet.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, in horror — images of my head being shaved bald flew through my mind.
“Because my mom said before I came over here to spend the night if I just went outside and shook my head off real good and rubbed on my head they’d all fall off so nobody would get them.”
I was nearly fuming at this point, my grandmother who interrupted this conversation was practically seething, it was 11 o clock at night and she couldn’t very well send the girl home in the dark to a house that might not even be occupied since it was a friday night and her mother and boyfriend might have gone out for the night. Her mother had never even bothered to come over and meet my family to see if we were good people so her daughter would be safe. My family had never seen hide nor hair of this woman. My grandmother told her to sleep on the cot downstairs and she would deal with it in the morning. My grandmother woke us up and sent Maria home bright and early – She immediately began furiously vacuuming, forcing stuffed animals into plastic bags and sealing them tightly and hustling them out to the garage. She had apparrently called a relative and they told her that anything that could house lice must be sealed off for six weeks. My stuffed animals were gone for nearly three months — you know, just to be sure. They vacuumed the upstairs carpet, mopped the floors, vacuumed the furniture, washed all the sheets, towels, blankets, everything in the entire house. Clothing, you name it. I was confined to the bathroom where they bombarded me with three different kinds of lice killer. They skimmed through every single strand of hair on my head. Only one knit, (lice). They disposed of it in the sink and I continued to scrub with a special shampoo over the next 3-5 days just to be sure. My grandmother and my mom kept me home from school until we were positive the nightmare was over.
A week later, when they were doing another lice screening, M was sitting down in the chair again being screened since apparrently her mother gave her clearance to return to school. I saw her hanging her head as the nurse took her into the office and called her mother.
Monday morning, there she was back at school AGAIN.
After school I saw her riding her bike up and down the sidewalk close to my house and I went out onto my porch, convinced lice could jump, I stayed far away. I told her that her mother needed to get her special shampoo called Nix to get rid of the lice. She shook her head and said
“My mom said they ain’t hurting nothing. She said they are annoying, and they itch but they wont make me sick.”
Being the age I was I didnt really have an understanding of what it meant for children to be neglected. I wish today I would have told somebody then all of the things she had told me in hopes that she and her sister P would have gotten a chance at a better life. I think that if I would have just been educated enough about what it meant for kids to be neglected or abused that I could have helped her. In fact I don’t know if she ever got the chance at a better life, I’m positive her mother was a drughead or an alcoholic of some kind because she always looked horrible, either sweating or flushed or blood shot eyes.
She might very well have gotten removed from that rotten womans care – because two months later I stopped seeing her at school and when I rode my bike past her house there was a condemned sign and “NO TRESPASSING” on her back door. I never saw M, her mother, or her sister, again.
It’s people like that that make me wonder how wonderful people women who would be/are amazing mothers deal with infertility. I sometimes feel like its some sort of sick joke thats being played on us all. For my next post discussion, “how to pass a bill to congress to have fuck-ups&perverts on reproduction ban until they get their lives together.”