As I write this, Bean is snoring loudly on the room monitor. Her environmental allergies have spiked - grown horns and developed tails that are long and reaching. We had her annual visit to the allergist a week ago and I'm still tired from that long afternoon.
The sleep Bean is getting now is thanks in part to a grape-flavored Benedryl wanna-be, a pill I gave her before her nap because we'd been outside blowing bubbles. I watched the transformation take place as silver bubbles soundlessly popped against a winking blue spring sky: her nose dripping a slow but steady stream, picking up from a trickle to a stronger flow as the minutes ticked by and cut grass fluttered through the air. She asked me, mid nose-to-sleeve wipe, what the droning thrum was in the background, cocking her head. I told her it was the neighbors' gardeners, their lawn mowers, you understand? When she nodded, she rubbed her eyes, squinting with pink eyelids.
This is what I remember most about this year's allergist visit--- beyond the needle pricks, beyond watching Alice's back abloom with countless red welts. Beyond her cries over the pain and irritation, how much it itched, how much she wanted me to help her. What I remember most about last Monday is watching her play in the waiting room while we listened for our name to be called. She crawled on the carpet quietly chattering to herself as she explored a huge dollhouse set in the corner. She was enchanted with its size, how her little toys could sit at the kitchen table without help, how she could put them to bed in the bedroom.
I watched her face light with wonder, and I thought to myself, "This is my child. Whole and well. I am so lucky."
An hour later I was sitting in a small white room holding her shoulders as a nurse poked her bare back with two dozen tiny needles. I thought about my Alice: the Alice I see in my dreams. An older Alice with greater awareness about the world she lives in. An Alice that I will still struggle to keep safe.
You don't know. You just don't know until you've lived it, what it's like. The hulking weight of responsibility to bear when every grocery cart has the potential to carry something lethal within it. I do the best I can. I keep the weight on my shoulders as much as possible so she can still skip through her days. But I've started to talk to her about the things she can't eat; how we don't eat nuts at all, how some things can make her very sick. And in the coming years, I'm going to have to talk to her about the people who are going to judge her based on her allergies. The ones that say we're over-acting. The ones that say we're over-protective. The ones that tell us she'll get over it if we just let her eat some damn trail mix already.
I've dealt with it more than you know: the mean ones and the well-intentioned ones alike. The ones who don't get it, and the ones that don't want to. The ones who try to help only when it's convenient. Every one of them who fails to see a small piece of chocolate as the deathly delivery device I know it can be.
It's a waste of energy to wish for that kind of understanding, just as it's a waste of energy to wish these allergies away. This is our life, I wouldn't have it any other way. My little girl is sleeping upstairs in deep naptime slumber. She is safe. She is happy. She is well.
And so am I.