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Stop Bugging Me

I am not a clean freak. Nor am I a slob. I’m somewhere in the middle — which makes kibbutz life tolerable, particularly in the rainy season.

When I was growing up, we were a no shoes in the house, no food on the couch type of family. I had to tidy my room for the cleaning lady (a point of contention for most upper middle class teenagers), but at least I was allowed through the living room, unless there were fresh vacuum lines on the carpet.

In my house in Israel, there are no carpets, just a few rugs to keep our feet from getting dangerously cold. (Apparently, if you don’t wear slippers across the cold tile floor here, you’ll either catch pneumonia, go into shock or turn into stone.)  It’s actually better that we don’t have carpets because it makes it a lot easier to spot the bugs.

I have to give myself a great big pat on the back for the tolerance I’ve shown the crickets and spiders.  I’ve even turned my head at the garden slugs that make their way to the front porch every morning and the centipedes that sneak under the front door in the middle of the night. I’ve only smooshed about half of them…the rest I’ve swept out the sliding glass door with my big Wicked Witch of the West size broom. I’d say that’s pretty compassionate.

But now we have ants. They appeared out of nowhere at the base of one of our bathrooms sinks; in the guest bathroom, which is much better than the master bathroom because I can ignore the problem until the next time we have guests, at which point I will feign shock and utter “What? Ants? I had no idea!”

In New Jersey, where I lived most of my life before Israel, if you have a bug problem you call Jerry the Exterminator. Not me, of course, because I know that pesticides kill you or give you cancer, whichever one comes first. I only call Jerry for the mice.

According to my friend Shira, who has lived here longer than I have, “Every season has its share of critters.” This includes mice, who don’t discriminate based on whether you rent or own your home.  And snakes, which apparently stick to the backyard. Somehow, I thought with all the rogue cats that hang out around here, I wouldn’t have to worry about rodents.  Not so. Could have something to do with folks like my mother-in-law who feed the cats fancy scraps. Who wants to prey on mice and snakes when you can have leftover Schnitzel?

The lice I expected…not because Israelis are dirty or anything, but because Gan is gross. It’s heaven for my kids, don’t get me wrong. What four year old wouldn’t love digging through the mud to find a cellphone from 1998 or snuggling up with a hand-me-down Raggedy Ann doll that looks like it made its way over here on The Exodus? It’s just that old pillows and stuffed animals are lice paradise, so having my kids in Gan pretty much guarantees I’m going to spend the summer months scratching my head off.

I have a theory, though, which I am unwillingly testing out and hope is true.

I think one is genetically predisposed to get lice the same way one is predisposed to near-sightedness or freckles. According to my theory, you are either a family that gets lice or you don’t. It’s something in your hormones or pheromones. It has nothing to do with which shampoo you use or how often you bathe.

So far, my whole life I’ve never had lice.  No matter how many times I’ve anxiously scratched away at little ghost nits in my hair as the school nurse ran her plastic comb through it, I’ve had nary a one. Let me make this perfectly clear: I feel very, very lucky about this, and I’m very scared to say it out loud — ptoo ptoo ptoo kenahora. I have enough conditions and illnesses to manage in my household. That last thing I need to be obsessing over is lice.

Unfortunately, my husband can’t make the same claim I can. He did have lice once as a kid, and so therefore I have to wonder what’s in store for my kids. Did I hand them down the lice-free genes? Is there such a thing? All I know is that having two kids in Gan will seriously put my theory to the test.

The good news is that the influx of little critters has desensitized my previously bug-aphobic kids. Now instead of screaming when they see a worm, they look around for a sharp object to slice it in half — just like any good kibbutz kid should.

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