Allergy Life In Five Speeds!

Ottawa, Canada food allergy mom Michelle Nel Chow shares a series of her personal stories with BAAAB. Her son, Nolan, is severely food allergic. Michelle stays strong and has self-published her own children’s book “To Be a Nut or Not“.

I was asked by a friend how I would describe life an allergy mom.
The best way I could think to explain it was this. Navigating life as an allergy parent has been like taking the world’s longest road trip – EVER – with a driver who albeit trying never seems to quite master driving stick!!!

A bumpy start, now there’s an understatement. One which those who’ve learned, or worse been succumbed in a vehicle where the driver’s learning stick will fully understand!! You can try brace yourself, but nothing can prepare you for the j-j-j-j-jostling about or the all too familiar screech of gears as they (insert an involuntary shudder) grind together.
My allergy journey has brought about many things, one has been my utter empathy for Mr. Bagshaw. Many years ago in a red VW Beetle he bravely sat where all dad’s one day sit, the passenger seat!! I will never forget the look in his eyes (a mix of fear and nausea) as his daughter Jennifer and spent the morning taking turns and driving (said loosely) in circles around Foreshore Park. I also must inject a quick and necessary thanks inclusive of a sincere apology to a certain teenage friend – who bravely allowed me to practice driving standard – with his NEW car (ack lol) by driving around the Stanley Park sea wall for hours!!

Yet with what I like to think of as an average amount of vehicle wear and tear left in my wake I can proudly attest to 20+ years under my belt of smooth shifting and grind free gear changes.

There is something to be said for the control felt shifting gears over the monotony of driving automatic. Ok I drive a minivan now so fair enough anything is less mundane. But the thing is, being the driver does have its advantages. You control the speed, the direction traveled and of course there are the unwritten ‘driver’ rules such as final say over air temp, music and of course the frequency of rest stops.

When I became an allergy mom 5 ½ years ago nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. I had no forewarning that with this title my privilege of the driver’s seat had forever been revoked. It was with much resistance I climbed over into the passenger seat. This loss of control was to be honest more than a little UN-nerving.

Resigned that my ride was prepared to leave without me I reluctantly and with a tad of resentment buckled my seat belt. Now I like to think I’m as patient as the next person but the thing is my driver doesn’t quite seem to have the aptitude nor the coordination required for driving stick. I have been hesitant to bring the topic up (as our journey together – seems for now at least.. endless) but my driver is either immensely lacking in skill or has a deviant sense of humor. Either/or on this allergy trip I don’t dare ever settle in. Without fail should I sit back and relax or get comfy with my feet up on the dashboard that is inevitably when I find myself suddenly lurching forward. I am ever thankful for my seat belt and oh yah that little handle on the ceiling (familiar by a variety of cleverly dubbed names all of which are acceptable and applicable on an allergy trip).

You see the allergy journey is deceiving, when the road is flat you make good time with little friction. But encounter even the teeniest speed bump and you will most certainly find yourself stuck in place or rolling backwards. With your driver struggling to balance one foot on the clutch the other on the gas your chances are equal to rattle and rock in one spot, lurch forward, or, the engine will sputter as the car stalls out completely.

Now the thing is, on the allergy journey getting out of first and maintaining speed are equally problematic . Climbing upward is a slow and arduous process and my driver apparently is as equally oblivious to my driving tutorials as to the sounds of the engine wheezing and coughing. Up up we go, consistently traveling in far too low a low a gear. In an attempt to fight gravity I lean forward my foot slamming into my imaginary gas pedal. Shockingly more times than not we do in fact break the summit without stopping or stalling or the need for a new transmission. Without fail, I’m sure to my drivers amusement – when of all things a traffic light right will appear and right there on the steepest part of the embankment it mocks me turning red causing us to come to a complete standstill It’s times like these I want to roll down my window and wave a white flag of defeat . But I don’t, I can’t, I won’t!!! Now being an allergy parent has made me strong, fierce, determined – but not a fool! So with my hand hovering over the emergency break , as the light turns green, I close my eyes and wait to feel the car in motion, silently muttering my preference is for forward!

Needless to say traveling as an allergy parent is tedious and at times painstaking. Yet to even our own surprise, we always do (eventually) reach our destination. What shocked and amazed even myself about this journey was that after my initial road sickness wore off I became accustomed to this style of travel. It took some time but all and all it isn’t really so bad. There’s the lack of control, the possibility of detours ,the lurching, sudden stops and the precarious hill starts. But the thing is, once I accepted that I was stuck with this driver for the for the long haul I sat back, relaxed and began to enjoy the ride . On each road we travel I now look at the scenery and I have been amazed by the beauty and friendships I’ve discovered along this journey. Sure sometimes (ok mostly) I must rely on humor, but learning to travel at a slower pace I’ve learned to appreciate all there is to see along the way.

I swear my driver aims for all pot holes and will without fail pick the most in-direct route possible. I’ll also admit to keeping a car sickness bag in hand at all times (and to the use of earplugs to help buffer the sound of gears grinding) but you know what, it’s a different, but a not so bad trip.

By Michelle Nel Chow