The uninvited guest to a canning partyJessie Knadler
This weekend I went to a canning party because that is what you do in the summer in the country where everyone has more garden vegetables than they can handle.
I enjoy canning parties, but they are somewhat of a logistic feat to pull off. Seven women and their kids plus a few dogs were slated to attend. Shopping lists had to be coordinated, everyone had to bring jars and supplies, and there needed to be at least two cook sites available. Thankfully, the hosts have an outdoor kitchen.
The day got off to an inauspicious start. About an hour before we were scheduled to meet, one of the moms who initiated the event called me up and said, “Yeah, um, I have a situation.”
“Um…my kid has lice.”
Her: “And I’m not sure what to do.”
She: “We’ve already been to the doctor who has put him on the special shampoo. The doctor says that as long as he stays outside and away from the other kids and wears his hat the lice won’t infect the other children.”
She: “So I’m debating whether or not to come.”
I know nothing about lice except that it sounds very gross. I’ve never had lice. I don’t know anyone who has had lice (except for my friend’s child) but apparently, to hear my mother-in-law Marmie tell it, lice is fairly common among kids, particularly once they start school. Lice spreads like the latest Silly Bandz craze, capable of infecting an entire classroom in a matter of days.
In my ignorance of the subject, I couldn’t help but whip up visuals of white slugs leaping from her child’s hair into June’s flossy mop. Hell to the no, I thought.
“Um, well, June and I don’t have to come,” I said. “We’re happy to stay home.”
“No, you guys shouldn’t have to stay home. I already spoke to Susan about it”–Susan is a nurse who knows about this sort of thing–“and she said that as long as there is no head to head contact and my child keeps his cap on and stays away from the other children, it should be fine.”
But what if one of the bugs is an elite jumper? I thought. And capable of pole vaulting across long distances? What then?
“Naah,” I said. We’ll stay home, it’s fine.”
“But you guys shouldn’t have to stay home when it’s my child who has lice,” she said, explaining that one of the other moms expressed similar reluctance to attend if lice was among the guest list.
I felt bad, I really did, because this mom and her child are always the life of the party and she was key in organizing the event. It seemed wrong for her to stay home when she was partially responsible for getting the party off the ground in the first place.
At the same time, I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax if I saw her child within five feet of my child just in case one of those creepy crawlies was a bionic jumper. I like to think of myself as a fairly chill mom but I know I’d be a basket case if my two year old had a head full of itchy bugs. Ugh!
And how do you keep kids away from each other while grown ups are canning? How do you keep kids away from dogs? And for that matter, from the grown ups? I imagined this poor child ostracized by himself in the middle of the corn filed while the moms and dogs and kids enjoyed themselves near the cooking area. That wouldn’t be much fun for anyone, least of all this child.
In the end, she made the decision to bow out. This was even after I spoke again to the host and nurse Susan who doubly reassured me that the odds of the lice spreading were nil provided some basic precautions were taken. I was comforted by this. I quickly called back the mom and told her that if nurse and host Susan — who has a toddler of her own, I should add — was fine with it, then I had no reason to not be fine with it as well.
But it was too late. The mom decided not to come. Then a third mom called to say her car broke down on the interstate so wouldn’t be coming as well. Then it down poured. Hmm, do you think maybe the gods were telling us all to stay home? We didn’t listen. June and I went to the party anyway and canned our brains out — Pickled Beets and Carrot Habanero Hot Sauce! — for the next five hours and left in another down pour…penance perhaps for swaying this mom’s decision to stay home when her child’s condition was probably no threat to the rest of us.
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