I once heard a quote that said, “Stay close to friends who feel like sunshine.” If I had to describe my friend Lexi, she would be as close to sunshine as it gets. She’s friendly and glowing and radiates such warmth to those around her.
So, the series of texts she sent me shouldn’t have caught me off guard as they did. But man oh man, they brought me to tears.
Lexi recently messaged me to ask if I’d like to get our families together for a barbecue, something we have done a few times. The thing is, it’s always at my house. With the many allergies in our household, I am always quick to host anyone, and happy to do it. We are a family of six, and three of us have food allergies – me and my two sons.
However, this time, Lexi wanted us to go to her house.
Immediately, alarm bells went off in my brain. Not only am I an allergy mom who has food allergies, but I also have an anxiety disorder known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This meant Lexi’s invite triple-scared me. Once as an allergy mom, once as someone with allergies herself, and once more as someone who worries about worries.
I haven’t eaten at a friend’s house in close to a decade. Now suddenly, Lexi wanted to buy, prepare and cook burgers for me at her home. It felt like a lot. But that’s not why I cried.
I knew her invitation could be good for me. Who better to have this experience with than her? She would make us feel as safe and as comfortable as possible.
Texts That Brought My Tears
Here’s what got me as an allergy mom, and brought the tears. After her invite, she followed with these texts.
“What safe snacks do your kids like? I know Ronin and Ryder like Nature’s Bakery fig bars, and that Ryder can eat Blue Bell Ice Cream. Is it the sundae cups that are nut-free? Also, what kind of dairy-free popsicles does Ronin like? What about the girls? Send me a list of safe fruits.”
“We can make burgers. What brand of buns and vegan cheese do you usually buy?”
“Or is there a safe meal you’d like me to prepare, instead of burgers?”
“If you prefer I wait until you’re here to prep food, I completely understand. I want to make sure everything is safe and good for the boys.”
“Please let me know what you are or aren’t comfortable with, and don’t feel bad telling me. My utmost priority is that you feel safe and the kids are safe. Please tell me how I can do that. Whatever is best!”
It didn’t end there. She immediately went to the grocery store and sent me follow-up texts with photos.
“We can buy a whole watermelon and cut it up at home. Wipe down everything beforehand. If you prefer to bring and cut it yourself instead, you can. Whichever you are most comfortable with.”
“We are more than happy to get the snack brands that are safe.”
Cue the waterworks. I cried once at home, and once more at Lexi’s house. She gave me a hug and cried with me. I was completely overwhelmed with stepping out of my comfort zone, and all of Lexi’s love and generosity on top of it.
Happily Outside My Comfort Zone
Normally, our food allergies make me feel like a total burden or inconvenience. But Lexi invited us over knowing full well the weight she was offering to carry.
She did her homework by memorizing safe snacks from past hangouts, unbeknownst to me. She asked questions, listened to answers, and encouraged me to teach her. Then, she went to the store and stocked up on pricier name brands that her family doesn’t even eat, and it was all for us.
When we got to her house, the kids eyeballed the safe basket of familiar snacks on her table and their eyes lit up. I ended up packing the meals for our boys because I decided that was still outside my comfort zone. But, as a first step, I did eat there myself.
I’m so glad I did. I discovered a new burger rub that I enjoy. As it turns out, Lexi’s home is entirely free from my allergens, which are fish and shellfish. She confessed her family thinks seafood is gross. A win for me!
We live in Florida with year-round great weather. But wouldn’t you know? We ended up with a cold front on that day. So, we traded in our popsicles for s’mores by the fire. I brought safe graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolates to share. It was a very special day.
Standing Next to Sunshine
When we returned home, my younger son Ryder leaned in and said to me, “Mom, they have the best house! They have snacks we can eat and a big backyard with a hammock and a fort and a fire.”
“They even have pet chickens! Today was the best day ever!” Needless to say, he can’t wait to go back for another barbecue.
Lexi is all the things anybody could hope to find in a friend. She is kind, patient, and understanding.
Even though it was way too cold outside for my born and raised Floridian body to handle, I still felt like I was standing close to sunshine. That’s because I was!
Allergy mom Emily Duty is a freelance writer based in South Florida. Learn about her children’s book, “Can You? (A Food Allergy Story)” here.
Top photo: Emily’s daughter Makayla and older son Ronin.