Sunday, September 14, 2008


My mother telephoned yesterday. She sounded happier than I have heard her in years. The reason for her joy? Chocolate!

Twenty-three years ago, my mother suffered a severe allergic reaction after over-indulging in chocolate-covered strawberries. From that day on, she conceived a strong aversion to both chocolate and strawberries. Incredible though it may sound, she hasn't touched either treat in all those years. At yet she never had herself tested for allergies, to find out which of the two triggered the allergy attack.

My mother is, under everything else, an hysteric. Throwing fits is her forte. Keening, fretting hissy fits, driven either by passion or by anxiety, are her spiritual gift. She has asthma attacks when people contradict her (even though she doesn't have asthma). She has chest pains when she is under pressure (even though her cardiologist swears she has the cleanest arterial walls in Nebraska). She breaks out in hives, feels as if her throat is swelling shut, and suddenly needs to sit or lie down during periods of crisis.

It has always been so, from the time my then-three-year-old brother fell down in an epileptic seizure and she needed to be pushed around the emergency room in a wheelchair, to the time she filed a missing-persons report on me when I, as a freshly-minted pastor just shy of 30, happened to go to a minister's conference out of town without notifying her in advance. Imagine my embarrassment when I found out the police had been looking for me because I didn't clear my movements with my mother - though I haven't lived in the same state with her since 1987.

So, obviously, I have always reckoned that Mom's supposed allergy to strawberries and/or chocolate was nothing but hysteria. She never made any effort to get a doctor's opinion on the matter, which only strengthened me in this conviction. Mom's joy, therefore, was no greater than my surprise when she told me that she had been tested, and found to be extremely allergic to strawberries. Not that being in mortal danger from the Number 3 Ice Cream Flavor in America is anything to be happy about. She was simply ecstatic over being able to go on her first chocolate binge in 23 years.

I hope she doesn't overdo it too much. That stuff can go to your head! But you know, I think this may give Mom a new lease on life. Or at least a relief-valve when the stress gets to be too much.

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