“I don’t have lice, hats make my head itch”: A letter from a disturbed mother.

My story has one of two beginnings:

December 25th, 2016 – Christmas Day

It had just turned 9 o’ clock; the kids had opened their presents, thanked Father Christmas, and were coming down from their annual rush of festive joy. My husband was still relieving the front room of the sea of wrapping paper, and I was busy cooking us all up some eggs (with their annual pinch of cinnamon for a little extra Christmas gaiety) when the doorbell rang. I was hardly out of the kitchen when I saw my mother-in-law  in the living room; presents practically coming out of her ears.

My mother-in-law is a very consistent person in that every year, at the same time in the morning, she arrives at the house for birthdays and Christmas with more gifts than she can carry. This year was no different, except for the fact that she had derailed from her usual care package of home scents and bath bombs, and actually bought me a hat. It was a lovely hat, like a little woven picnic basket with stones and trinkets wrapped around the base, and it sank down ever so slightly just above my eyes to give me that ‘European tourist photographer’ look. The only problem was that it was a summer hat used for shade against the harsh rays of mid-allergy season, and we were currently in the dead of winter. Suffice to say, I didn’t see the hat for a good while. It was returned to its box the same day, to be opened at some time next year.

This brings me to the past couple of days.

July 28th, 2017

A festival called NorthFest had been going on this past weekend and my husband and I were really keen to attend as one of our favourite musicians from the 90’s were playing. We were only there for one day so we wanted to make a day out of it, so we donned our wellies and fanny-packs and headed down first thing in the morning. When we got there, at about half past nine, the sun was already beaming down on us, the grass was freshly cut, green, and smelling lovely. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I was prepared. I reached into my bag and let my Christmas gift see daylight for the first time. I propped it onto my head, and let the world take it in.

It felt (and looked) better than I’d anticipated, as we walked around the different stalls, food vans, and activities I felt a mixed sense of feminine authority and beauty. I felt like my husband felt proud as we walked together with our hands intertwined.

And then the itching started.

I noticed it during my lunch when I couldn’t take two bites of a Greek chicken souvlaki without having to put it down on my lap and attend to my screaming scalp. When I eventually did finish my food, my husband and I both had creeping suspicions that I’d caught something from this outdoor gaggle of people, children and mud. I took off my hat for ease of access and left the scene so as to not rouse further attention to my scratching.

As we walked, the itching continued. The worst thing was that it wasn’t the sort of itch that could be left unattended. No amount of willpower or mental strength could conquer this pressing irritation, and I had no choice but to succumb to it with withering fingernails. This caught people’s eyes, parents watched as they walked past, disgust set deep in their gaze. Kids were moved away from me and my apparent contagion that I so selfishly unleashed upon this mass of innocent festival-goers. Even thoughtless children that held no care in the world appeared to look at me with concern. I was embarrassed, truly and hopelessly embarrassed. But we’d paid for the day so there was no going home just yet, regardless of my pressing desire to do so.

As the afternoon turned to evening, my itching ceased. We had found a good place to watch the concert, and as the music went on, the memory of my trauma temporarily vanished. The evening air slowly got colder though, and my once inflamed head had begun to get a mild case of the shivers, so I put my hat back on and relaxed…

…for all of about three minutes before the itching returned with a vengeance. I swiped the hat off in fear and swept a gentle hand through my hair to get a clean sweep of my entire top-of -head. The crisp summer’s night air breathed onto my head again but the itching seemed to disappear. It was then that I made the realisation that I had simply suffered a severe case of the hat-itches.

My heart floated in my chest, the music felt warm in my ears, I smiled and even laughed at myself as I told my husband my revelation. He laughed at me mockingly and I rested my war torn head in his chest. I thought back to all those self-righteous parents who hid their children from me as if I was Patient Zero, they were wrong and I was okay. I didn’t know if I wanted to see them again in the crowd to say “Don’t worry Sir/Madam, I don’t have lice or anything, my hat just makes my head itch, *hahahaha*!” or if more contact with them would prove further humiliating. I decided to put the whole mortifying afternoon behind me, enjoy what we came here for, and bask in the nostalgia of the 90’s in an itch-free Arcadia.

Written by Joyce Reneé for the Pumpkin Post.

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