It was always in my back pocket for games of “Never Have I Ever,” (a rather useful life-skill when working with college students). Answers like “never have I ever… eaten french toast” have a winning edge.
It was always in my front pocket when dining out. Friends enjoyed grilling wait staff about ingredients with dramatic warnings like “My friend will diiiiiiiiiie. She will DIE!!”
The Allergy-Unconscious 80s
I grew up in the pre-allergy 1980s.
Before food allergy labeling laws.
Before gluten-free pizzas.
Before online allergen guides.
Before peanut-free classrooms.
Before teal pumpkins.
Before “may contain traces of” and “made in a shared facility with” warnings.
Before the establishment of the Big-8.
I was an allergy kid before there were allergy kids. Mom tells stories of other moms calling to ask “where to find the ingredients” on a box, so I could eat at their houses. They’d never “checked the ingredients” in their life.
My parents became experts at navigating this uncharted path. They knew what was at stake. They were one of a handful of adults who knew what Anaphylaxis was.
My egg allergy meant home-packed fruit roll-ups on friends’ birthdays. Sack-lunch at school except for chili day and turkey with mashed potatoes day. Being on a first name basis with camp cooks and school chefs. Sweet treats only if mom made them. Cookies, cupcakes, ice cream, breads, pastas and pancakes all came with a big fat question mark. Could I eat them? If it wasn’t a for sure yes, then it was a no.
The Big Bird cake on my first birthday served as my initiation into the allergy club.
When I was six, an error by a waitress sent me for my second ER visit.
I made it 15 more years without “accidental ingestion,” before two oopses one summer in early adulthood. (There also was the egg-dropped-down-the-middle-school-banister incident. A story for another day.)
For my wedding, I searched high and low for a baker willing to experiment with an egg-less cake. (Someday, I’ll tell you about how she thought she’d neglectfully killed the bride. #weddingblunders)
Every year, I’d visit the allergist for retesting. And every year, the same results: highly allergic. The chance of outgrowing my allergy was on a downward trend as each birthday assed. Eggs and I could never be friends.
But, 10 years ago today, that all changed.
The Incredible, (Finally) Edible Egg
On the day before my 27th birthday, I participated in a multi-hour “egg challenge.” (I was disappointed to find out this was nothing like a “Double-Dare” Physical Challenge. No slime. No containers with fill-lines. No 30-seconds on the clock. No knee pads. Just my mouth, my gag reflex and my immune system up against a plain, unseasoned, scrambled egg.)
I walked out of that office being cleared of my allergy.
In an instant, eggs became just another food. Bakeries, Chinese take-out, restaurant bread baskets, international travel, flu shots, communion, BREAKFAST – all of these became options for me.
I first tested the waters with baked goods as somewhat of a baby step. Chocolate chip cookies – mmm. Soon, I stopped combing ingredients’ lists, interrogating waitresses and avoiding food-involved social engagements.
I felt relief. I felt freedom. I felt normal.
And I felt terrified.
All my life, “egg” was synonymous with poison. The smell triggered disgust. Proximity created anxiety. Written or spoken, the word got my attention. It was to be avoided at all costs.
Over the past ten years, I’ve continued to snub my nose at anything white enough to contain mayo or ranch dressing. I wince at non-leafy-green foods ending in the word salad – think potato, chicken, tuna, egg. I still can’t bring myself to try breakfast casseroles or omelets. Scrambled, hard-boiled or deviled eggs? No thanks.
For 27 years, I’d been fleeing in the other direction at the sight, sound and smell of eggs. You don’t just snap out of that overnight.
When Life Gets a New Normal
It’s not too different from my faith. I began following Christ when I was 18 1/2. That means, for 18 1/2 years, I was relying on myself for meaning, significance, wisdom, security, identity, comfort, answers, joy, peace, character, virtue, discipline, strength and hope.
For 18 1/2 years, I had no other option. Not because He wasn’t there, but because I didn’t think he needed to be.
Eighteen and one-half years ago, I heard and understood the real message of Christ.
The relationship-not-religion thing. The you-can’t-do-a-thing-to-earn-it thing. The offered-to-everybody-but-forced-on-no-one thing. The died-in-my-place thing.
I heard it. I understood it. I decided to accept it, to accept him.
For 18 1/2 years, I’d done life without him. I was around him. But, I had my own ways, my own claim on my life. I was relying on me, myself and I. While my adoption as God’s daughter happened in an instant and changed everything, I didn’t snap out of that overnight. It’s an ongoing fight to stop relying on myself. Relying on him is certainly not my default. I spent 18 1/2 years training myself not to.
I’ve always seen my babies’ nine-month birthdays as milestones. Longer out than in. I felt like they turned corners of adjusting to the world outside the womb. At nine months, this world became their new normal.
Tomorrow is my 37th birthday. It’s also 18 1/2 years after I handed my life over to God. Longer with than without. Perhaps it will get easier to rely on him. To recall all the ways I’ve experienced him, been aware of his faithfulness, known he was there. Recall all the truth I’ve learned and the hope I’ve been given. He is my new normal.
Eggs are still working their way into new normal. It’s only been 10 years since since my body stopped rejecting them. With the longer-with-than-without trend, I’m aiming for a brunch of quiche and fried rice on my 54th birthday. Until then, I’ll just stick with donuts and lasagna in all their hidden-egg goodness.