My husband and I love to cook during the holidays. We spend time researching dishes and reminiscing over menus of yesteryear. It's fair to say that we are "foodies," a term used to describe a person with a particular interest in food.
As a child, Thanksgiving was just the stop over before Christmas. No presents other than time off of school and getting to see my extended family. I never really appreciated the efforts the adults took to plan and prepare the huge feasts. There were no rituals, no special activities or gratitude circles. To me the meaning of the holiday was really about seeing my family.
Once I was married, I learned quickly that holidays were not as easy as my family made them out to be. Unbelievable pressure from the major decisions; do we spend the day with my family or my husband's family and what should we bring??? These decisions felt astronomical.
Holiday Stress, the Thanksgiving table, and Extraordinary Circumstances
Right after my son's first birthday, he went into anaphylactic shock after eating a peanut butter cookie. It truly was the scariest situation I had ever experienced. His lips, tongue, nose, eyes and even his ears became unrecognizable. Thank God my husband was home from work because his quick thinking saved our son's life. A bottle of Benadryl bought us enough time to get him to the emergency room.
My son was soon diagnosed with severe food allergies to nuts, eggs, wheat and dairy. It was such a difficult experience and changed how we lived dramatically. What was a constant, was the worrying about our son's exposure to the dangers of food that threatened his life.
Did you know that 32 million Americans live with food allergies?
That's 1/10 adults and 1/13 children. Each year in the U.S., 200,000 people require emergency medical care for allergic reactions to food. This means that silent dangers linger around the holiday dining room table -- a nightmare for people living with food allergies.
It became abundantly clear after a few years of trying to keep traditions the same that celebrating Thanksgiving at our house was our only option if we wanted to stay sane. Having Thanksgiving at home meant we could control the food that was being served and create an atmosphere that was safe for us all. It did come with a cost, our family had their own traditions and that meant that we would spend the holiday mostly alone.
Hard feelings and lost family connections created unwanted sadness and arguments. Not to mention, the dishes of yesteryear were all changed and adapted to our son's special diet. I will be honest, there were so many meals that were awful that traditional side dishes were replaced with basic everyday foods that we cooked on any given weekday. It took a few years to embrace the changes and let go of the unrealistic expectations that we placed on this holiday tradition.
Gratitude Our Own Way
Today, the decision has been one that I do not regret. The stress of the holiday lifted so that the true meaning of the day is felt with out fear and with the sweetest change to celebrate in our own way.
Our Thanksgiving table for the last 5 years has been decorated by our son with brown paper crayon messages. Celebrating without harm or danger is worthy of great gratitude even from this foodie.