Even though for most of the month of December I have been sick, 12/24/19 and 12/25/19 came and went. With what I would usually call lack of planning on my part, people all around me picked up the pieces and made Christmas wonderful for me and my family. Christmas Eve began with one of our oldest family traditions, Christmas brunch and grab. This time-honored tradition is a chance for some of the people I love to get together as a reminder of how much we mean to each other. Since my second son was born we have adapted our tradition of alternating households to have our annual celebration in my home. Yes, my sister and I have the youngest children currently in this group of people, but it is also about my family’s mobility. That for me is just as, if not more important then being blood-related. They (our friends) put our needs and safety before their own. Their homes’ are not accessible, so them coming here relieves many levels of anxiety for us.
If we are able to make Christmas visits as a family unit, there are certain adaptations that need to be made for mobility reasons. Can we enter the building with relative ease, a ramp? If there is a safe place to go to the bathroom, grab bars? If one of these two options, nevermind both are available to us then my anxiety about leaving my comfort zone is immediately lessened. Yes, my wheelchair can be bumped upstairs and someone can let me put my hands around their neck as they pull down my pants. Having those small elements that allow me safety and some level of dignity, are irreplaceable. I am so lucky because so many people in my life understand this and therefore work with me in the installation of these necessary devices, or their willingness to come to me where I already have them.
This year the number of people backing my family increased by a significant number. Out of the blue, my husband received a phone call by one of his father’s first cousins, she called to invite the 4 members of our immediate family, to her family’s Christmas Eve celebration. Now I had met this very nice woman a handful of times, and her brother (whose house it was at), once 5 years ago. As if she was aware where my mind would go first, she told my husband about the house layout, that they would be putting up a tempory ramp, and installing a grab bar in the bathroom. These gestures by people who barely know me or my family well, for the first time words fail me. I am always a little nervous at a new place, in a wheelchair among a house full of able-bodied people. I feel like a circus sideshow. For whatever reason in this home, I did not. Just the effort put into inviting us and the sincere feeling of love and appreciation for the amount of effort it takes our small family to go anywhere put my anxiety at ease.
I have been a wheelchair user since the fall of 2009, almost exactly 10 years. In that crazy rollercoaster of a decade, I have changed and gone through so much. I have learned about myself, disability, motherhood, and love, just to name a few areas. In the next decade, I plan to increase my knowledge, as well as thrive in that knowledge. One of the most powerful areas people can control is inclusion and effort. Those two areas can show so much about people and where their true intentions lie.