Symptoms include hives and itching with flushed, pale skin; low blood pressure; constriction of your airways and a swollen tongue or throat, which can cause wheezing and trouble breathing; a weak or rapid pulse; nausea or vomiting; dizziness or fainting.

My daughter recently had an anaphylactic reaction to a mystery trigger. After a very dramatic blood test that required three adults to hold her screaming, thrashing body down, we learned what she's allergic to. I won't tell you, though, because I immediately imagined a future where an abusive boyfriend forced her allergen upon her, causing her painful, lonely death far away from my ability to fix it. I won't tell you because future you might tell that future boyfriend. Why would I set myself up so that you could do that?

Next, I imagined her at 15 - willful and rebellious, free ranging in the world and reluctant to carry her epi pen. I looked at her sweet, small, legs, and imagined them grown, walking away from me. Her little lips, grown, saying No. Her back turned. Her eyes red, her throat swollen.

Next, I imagined every scenario in which her teachers didn't pay attention. In which there is a substitute who doesn't know to watch her. When she's gone to music class or art class or any of the myriads of other times she's not safely in her room with the teacher I can lock eyes with and explain WATCH HER.

Next, I imagined taking her to a friend's house for a sleepover when she's a little older. I swept aside the various things I usually imagine when I imagine a sleepover (pedophile fathers and brothers, guns, adults who seem kind but then aren't, etc.). I imagined the speech I'll deliver specifically to the mother about her allergy, her epi pen, and WATCH HER.

Next, I imagined her in college. Beautiful and bright, young and free - drinking cocktails on a patio outside (purchased with a fake ID) with a first, real love (he isn't good enough for her). She's tan with little freckles on her nose, so fresh and comfortable in her own skin, her dark hair a little wild, but adorable. Her green eyes, like mine. They swell up. Her throat closes.

I've always had a vivid imagination for the worst case scenario. There's a part of me that believes if I imagine the worst thing that could happen and try to feel the pain ahead of time, when the thing I fear happens, it will hurt less. The pain is the allergen, and if I take it in small, pre-emptive doses, I can become less and less susceptible to the ways it will hurt me.

It doesn't work, of course. The things you worry about steal the sweetness from the day-to-day, and the things you could never possibly imagine are what show up to rip your heart out. And it's the same with love, beauty - the passions you long for desperately are often not what will quench the longing in your soul.

I watch my girl sleeping. She's brown from swimming in the pool. Her little hands clutch my pajama, which she requires to cuddle for sleep - I touch the tips of her pink fingers, brush her soft, brown hair from her face. She has a big-girl bike now with training wheels and a seat on the back for her baby doll. It has a bell on it she loves to ring. She'll start kindergarten soon, and she's so ready. She sounds out words when we read books together before bed with letters she recognizes, figuring out the "evening" based on how she knows to spell her sister's name Eva.

We're reading C.S. Lewis now, and the girls love it. Last night, we got to the part of The Magician's Nephew where the majestic lion calls a world into being with his voice, unwavering. His eyes, unblinking. The girls asked about all the animals, and Lily huddled in fascinated fear as I read the description of the lion coming closer and closer. I held my daughters, closer and closer. They are here, now. Warm and real. Safe.


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