A mom at my daughter’s school contacted me two weeks ago about her daughter’s upcoming birthday – she wanted to get safe cupcakes for the whole class that were inclusive of allergies as well as vegans and vegetarians. I responded as I often do, by offering to cover our side of things so she wouldn’t have to worry but she pressed on. Last week she brought me the brochure of the vegan bakery she’d found and said they’d assured her they could make peanut, tree nut, oat, and sesame free vegan cupcakes. As most of you may know, letting go of control is not my strong suit, but yesterday when she brought the cupcakes after school I was late. When I arrived, my daughter was standing there holding a cupcake and waiting patiently, her friend’s mother had told her to stay close and wait until I came and gave the final all clear. She ate it with gusto, and was on cloud nine. She always tries to eat the cake first so she saves the frosting for last, I am not so self controlled.
Fast forward to this morning – my mom was visiting briefly from Colorado and I let my daughter miss the morning part of her school day so that we could go grab an allergy friendly breakfast at the South Point and celebrate (belatedly) my nephew’s birthday (he was visiting from California). At any rate, at breakfast my phone chimed and I saw a message from my daughter’s classmate’s mother – she noticed at lineup that my daughter was missing and was worried about a delayed reaction keeping her out of school. I messaged back right away that we were playing hooky a little bit and that all was well but I was truly touched by her compassion and kindness.
On Monday we took advantage of the holiday and met up with a dear friend of mine and her family – their children all have food allergies and their eldest has a particularly severe dairy allergy. She excitedly showed me some girl scout cookies that were safe for them, and upon investigation they were an option for us as well (apparently different distributors/manufacturers make the cookies across the country so one of them has some allergy friendly options). My daughter ate her first “scout cookie” and we managed to polish them off. Jokingly, my friend said we should go find more and it wasn’t long before we loaded the kids in our respective vehicles and drove to the nearest store to see if we could spy any girl scouts.
First: Albertson’s. We slowed through the parking lot but it was a bust so we moved on to the next store, it was silly and fun and it was all on our way to my daughter’s swim class and my friend’s errand to get new shoes for her youngest. At Von’s, our second store, my friend said she’d go to Smith’s while we went to swim class and then we could all link up at Chipotle for dinner. It was spontaneous and still makes me smile to think of it all. We came up empty handed on the cookie front but that was never really the point. It’s nice to think that though I’m getting older (I’m having major dread as my birthday approaches), I can still be silly. Plus, I just want to hug the stuffing out of my friend every time I see her – she makes me feel normal.
Last week, I was walking to my car after dropping my daughter off at school and a fellow parent stopped to chat with me. We ended up talking for the better part of an hour about our trials and tribulations and it was oddly reinvigorating. None of us are truly alone.
I recently unsubscribed from a bunch of food allergy information sources because I felt like they were feeding my anxiety instead of quelling it. Some great things do go on, like Kyle Dine’s allergy video Kickstarter or the fundraiser for Dr. Xiu-Min Li’s research, but then there are things like sponsored jokes at the expense of those with allergies, school board members in another state laughing at a remark suggesting shooting children with food allergies, cartoons throwing food allergies into the vaccine maelstrom, and most recently a facebook page that claims that allergies are not real. I get the frustration, I get the anger, I just also get wistful about the energy and fervor that is expended on bullies when our community faces the looming specter of inadequate access. Access to epinephrine, access to employment opportunity, access to education, and more for food allergic individuals.
Did you know that federal disability law in the United States doesn’t just protect the allergic person in question but those associated with them, such as parents and advocates? Did you know that a court in California opined that threatening the safety of a child with food allergies through institutional policy “approach[es] the limits of what a civilized society will tolerate” in a recent unpublished opinion? The courts can be maddening a lot of the time, but I find intellectual safe haven in the idea that the “civilized society” is the quiet one. The village that we forge with friends near and far, and the support networks we may not realize we have. I find emotional safe haven in the idea that I get these moments and glimmers of the sisterhood (and brotherhood) of compassionate people.
I’m reminded of this quote from Bruce Lee (source) –
(In case the image is hard to view, here’s the text):
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
Granted, I think adjusting can be assertive, but I like to think of how water is never just one thing – it can have strength and it can have calm, the tide can lift us all or it can be a destructive agent. The moments, the conversations, the support we feel from within and without are just as powerful, if not stronger, than the trolling and insensitivity others dish out.
Of course, all of this comes with the caveat that I’m not always even tempered or as kind as I’d like to be. I hope that I can learn from others and stay true to myself as the years roll on but to throw out one more quote, Henry David Thoreau wrote: “When one man has reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact to his understanding, I foresee that all men will at length establish their lives on that basis.” We have to constantly check our assumptions and our imagination before we mistakenly establish our lives on shaky ground. We have to be open to correction, through a sort of social scientific method, testing and re-testing our hypothesis of living.
I have felt quiet on my blog of late because of that sort of adjustment and re-evaluation. I think I set out to share the story I began with, the story of the birthday cupcake, and ended up all over the place so maybe I do have a few things left to put out into the ether.
Thanks for reading.