Holidays with my extended family are larger than life. We had two Thanksgiving meals today; lunch at my mom's mother's house, dinner at my dad's parents' house. 44 people at the first place, 36 people at the second.
Of course there haven't always been that many people, but as long as I can remember our holidays have been one huge gathering of people on top of people, kids everywhere, and enough food to feed a small army. For a very long time that was the only kind of holiday I knew. . . craziness, laughter, and not enough chairs to go around.
The first time I stayed in Ohio for a holiday I thought it was going to be sad or strange, but now I have come to love our more intimate family gatherings in Ohio as much as I love the big insane ones in Wisconsin.
I think Harper has started to love coming up here for holidays. Between my cousins and my cousins' children, the possibilities for playmates are seemingly endless. I love hearing her laugh and watching her play, running circles around the same houses where I once crawled and toddled and ran with my cousins.
But, oh, that darn peanut allergy.
My relatives have been really understanding about the things we've asked them to do to help keep Harper safe during these big gatherings. It's either that or we don't come at all. Yet, despite everyone's at least basic understanding of what to do or not do, I find the whole thing really stressful. To simplify it this year, we just brought food for Harper to eat when we sat down to meals. The truth is, no matter how safe something seems, unless I can see all the ingredient labels and know what else was happening in the kitchen where it was made, I just have trouble trusting that it is safe for her to eat. So I worry, even when she's eating our food, with all those people running around and food everywhere, I worry that we're going to have a problem. I have gotten my day-to-day worry pretty much under control, but these special events are an entirely different beast.
Today went pretty well, but at some point during dinner at our second stop, I suddenly became totally overwhelmed. Surely part of it are the pregnancy hormones going crazy. There was just a moment in which the responsibility of keeping Harper safe, and the fear that she was never going to be able to enjoy these gatherings in a totally carefree way, that we were never going to be able to enjoy these gatherings without worry, it just felt like too much. And I had a little breakdown. One problem I have always had is that once I start crying, I just can't stop. So I kind of hid in the bedroom harboring the coats, blowing my nose and sniffling, and trying to calm myself right the heck down. Because if there is one thing you don't want to do in the middle of a group of 36 people, it is to start crying for no apparent reason and then have to explain yourself.
I know all the perspective-keeping things I should be saying to myself; there are worse things we could be dealing with, we have a beautiful child, we have a large loving family, etc. I know these things, but occasionally they become difficult to remember.
Yet here we are, as the clock winds down on another Thanksgiving, and we are together and safe and Harper had the time of her life. And I am thankful for that.