Wednesday, May 12, 2010


And these were the things that lead to this moment yesterday afternoon: me running through the grass at a small city park in the middle of Longview, Washington; my breath coming out in measured beats as I pushed my legs forward-- faster, longer strides, breath goes in and breath goes out, the car a blue smudge on the periphery. Chip's measured breathing behind me as he held Alice and followed my strides. Breath in and breath out. The car growing larger in my eyesight.

The entire trek across the park taking no more than two minutes, but in it was a lifetime of space to think about what had happened to lead us here.

A stop in the park on our way south to Portland. A restless girl who needed to stretch her legs.

We walked lazily on the springy turf, marveling at the giant trees. Bean pointed skyward, "A TREE, mommy. A TREE." She looked for rocks and bounced from one bush to another.

Then Chip walked ahead to check on the pick-up time of a nearby mailbox. I stayed back with Bean, watching her circle a huge tree. For a moment she was out of my view, and as I stepped around, this is what I saw:

My tiny girl, bending expectantly over the ground, holding something small and light brown in her dimpled fingers.

From that snapshot, to this one from Bean's perspective:

A mommy crossing the distance in a single second, scooping the girl up and brushing the airy shell from her fingertips. All business, so quick. And then the mommy firmly calling to the daddy,

"Chip. We have to leave now. We need to get Alice to the car right now. She picked up a peanut shell."

I passed Bean off into Chip's strong arms as he nodded to me, the action implied. The intention focused. "You run ahead and get ready."

And then I was off, churning grass under my feet--- the push of my leg muscles keeping time with my breathing. I performed a checklist in my head: grab the wipes (maybe we can catch any spare oils before she has a reaction), grab the Epi-pen, count to ten. Chip will know where the hospital is. We will inject her and then take her in. Be calm.

I considered this list five times before the car door was smooth under my fingertips. Chip was just a moment behind me, his long legs making short work of the distance. As I opened the door and grabbed the wipes I called back to him for a report.

She seems okay. She seems okay.

Here's the wipe.

He already knew my plan without discussion or explanation.

Another wipe.

Bewildered looks from Alice as I turned to watch the progress, wipe her other hand.

And she was fine. She is fine. We walked in quiet a few minutes later, watching her closely for any sign of reaction. We went back and checked the peanut shell she'd picked up --- the ground was littered with dozens of them, more than a few with peanuts still tucked in the shell. I felt sick for my lack of foresight, terrible that I hadn't seen the minefield.

Because that's what it can feel like: these innocuous things that become viciously dangerous in Bean's vicinity.

There was a Sunday months ago, just a few weeks after Bean's diagnosis. We were navigating the crowded halls after church, weaving through bodies. I was in front with Chip and Bean behind me. And we were smiling at each passing face, saying hello and murmering greetings. Then we turned a corner and there were a clutch of teenage boys laughing, walking out of a classroom, a bright orange bag in one boy's hand. And in the other hands of all the boys: gold foil wrappers, brown folded papers--- the familiar round shape of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

Things slowed in that moment until I could see the slow glint of sun on the foil. I watched the boys' smiles as they ate the delicious chocolate, the lucious peanut butter. I imagined a small crumble of the chocolate on the floor, Bean's hand reaching for it in a moment when my mind is turned elsewhere, putting the candy into her mouth. And then I turned, glanced back at her perched high in Chip's arms. Her impossibly lovely face, smiling. She was reaching out to me. I wanted to throw myself backward, wrap my body over Bean. Instead I watched as Chip turned his large shoulders to elbow past the boys and their after-church fun. It happened so fast, was such a small thing. Who doesn't enjoy chocolate? But then there was us, me and Chip and Alice standing outside the doors, shaking, thinking these repeated words: this close, this close, this close, this close.

Always so close.

Like the shells in the park and the car across the long stretch of grass. Like Chip's breath on my back as he's running behind me.


Anonymous said...

Aside from beautifully written (you have such a gift!), this was heart stopping. I am so glad it worked out for you this time, but hate that this is your new life. Bean is so luck to have you and Chip looking out for her.

Amanda said...

Great thinking Team Bean! I'm so glad she didn't have a reaction. What a scary thing to go through.


clueless but hopeful mama said...

I second Shelly Overlook, completely. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this and SO GLAD that Bean is okay.

I think about this from time to time when I'm packing a picnic lunch for us. I love trail mix but I leave it at home when other kids are around. And when my mom lamented the other day that Zoe won't eat peanut butter and jelly I just shrugged. She's been offered it at home but no one eats it at school or playdates or anywhere so she's not a fan. And that's a small price to pay for other kids' life-and-death safety.

Bethsix said...

Poor baby Bean. Glad everyone's okay.

kately said...

I sincerely wish you didn't have to deal with this challenge :-( So glad all is well. I love that you and Chip are so in sync with each other and work so well as a team. Alice could ask for better parents - hugs to you guys. Shelby just saw me typing my response and she said "Alice?" She is glad her friend is ok :-)

Erin P said...

What Shelly said. Beautifully written. I hope somewhere your novel is well under way. And I'm sorry that Bean has this allergy. I hope the best for you all.