Gobble, gobble! Happy Thanksgiving! I wonder if these wild turkeys we came across in Asheville a few weeks ago survived the holiday. They look delectable, don't they?
We have much for which to be grateful this year, and family and friends are always first and foremost on our list. In May we lost a beautiful fixture in our lives, my grandma, Ruth Leslie Bean. She lived so long and so fully that her passing still surprises me—I have to remind myself every time I think of her that she is really gone. Grateful is not a deep enough word to describe how I feel about Grandma; it's too simple to describe the legacy she left behind or how much any of us misses her. But grateful will have to do for today, because I can't think of a word that could possibly cover the complexity of her imprint on those of us she left behind. (And my table will be set today with many of her treasures, too.)
When I think back through the year, two other circumstances flash like beacons in my memory. We are thankful for a Good Samaritan who risked his life to rescue a loved one from drowning in a riptide. If this man, a stranger, had hesitated even a moment (I wish I were exaggerating), our family would be ending this year in heartbreak and hardship. Instead our hearts are jittery but filled with gratitude for this stranger and the life he saved.
The other circumstance is one I thought I would have written about by now, but it's taken more of an emotional toll on me than I expected. We learned several years ago that Cricket has a peanut allergy. In June she began a 3-year clinical trial, IMPACT, which is testing a method called oral immunotherapy to build up a tolerance against peanuts. (I'll explain the process later, but as one witty friend observed, "So it's basically the method used with the poison in The Princess Bride, right?" Yes, yes indeed.) Starting the trial was one of the most difficult parenting decisions we've had to make; to try to improve Cricket's quality of life on a daily basis and, most importantly, keep her alive, we had to start the trial with a huge hurdle: a peanut challenge (feeding her enough peanuts, in a clinical setting, to spur an allergic reaction) to get her immune system firing.
It took us more than a year to find the courage to begin the trial. What our decision finally boiled down to was our confidence in the study team at UNC. They made it clear from the beginning that the science behind this technique is young—Cricket would be a pioneer—but we would get through it together. And when it came down to that initial peanut challenge and some side effects over the following months, they stayed true to their word; they held our hands and propped us up (quite literally) while showing us the ropes of the laborious and sometimes terrifying process. And equally as important, they won the hearts of our girls, showering them with treats, remembering every detail of their lives and making them excited to visit the clinic every other week—no short order when it comes to my introverts. Who knows whether this process will prove successful for Cricket. We have a long road ahead, though we have reason to believe we're moving in the right direction. Regardless, we are beyond grateful to our team at UNC for the work they are doing and the compassion with which they are accomplishing it. They are changing lives, and we are fortunate to be along for the ride.
Now go give thanks and eat some turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.