Wednesday, May 06, 2009
We were on the boat ride over to the Magic Kingdom when Ruby spotted a girl of about 8 wearing a Cinderella gown and necklace. The necklace had a cameo portrait of Cindy and acted like a magnet pulling Ruby to itself. Her little finger pointed at the picture as she said to the girl, in a hushed voice, 'Is that you?' The girl, delighted at the attention, said, 'Yes.' Ruby took a step away from her and looked closely. You could see disbelief followed quickly by disappointment etch themselves on her face. She knew she'd been lied to, she reached out to her mom to be held. It was a tough moment to watch.
Certainly there are things we need to learn as we grow. Things that keep us safe. Beyond not running with sissors and looking both ways before crossing a street, learning that others lie, others trick and others manipulate - are also important lessons. Sad ones, true, but did one of these lessons have to happen on the boat over to Disney?
Ruby also seemed to begin to notice my differences more on this trip. Up until now, I've just been Dave. Dave is in a chair. Dave is really fat. Dave is simply Dave. But now Ruby was recognizing that many, most, other people are not like me. Most other people walk. Most other people are thinner. Most other people are different. Dave is different. She'd point out other people in wheelchairs to me. A couple of times she saw other big people and she'd smile and point at them too. It was like she wanted me to know somehow, that I was not alone that there were others like me out there too.
Then, we were at the pool. I was sitting in my wheelchair and Ruby had come back from swimming. A family had taken a table not far from us and they had three children, one a child a couple years older than Ruby. Ruby is very social and likes to be around and play with other children so she cautiously made her way over to say 'hi'. It was only when I felt that I had to pay close attention to them that I heard that they were making fun of me, my weight, my wheelchair, typical stupid stuff.
It registered all over Ruby's face that they were being mean to me. She fought tears as her face contorted getting ready to cry. Once over the urge she pointed back at me, 'Dave ...' there was a long pause as she tried to find a word to say. Her vocabulary doesn't give her the language she needed to defend me. I waited. This was her moment, not mine. 'Dave ...' she said again. They'd stopped talking because they'd noticed her presence. Knew they'd been heard by this little girl.
'Dave ... MINE!' she said, turned round and ran back to us. She threw her arms up to me and I picked her up. She gave me a hug. I thanked her for standing up for me.
'Mine.' People should not tease and mock me because I belong to someone. People should not hurt each other because we all belong to others. We are knit into lives, we are part of a larger fabric of belonging. 'Mine.' A word of possession, a word of inclusion, a word of affection. A word known by two year olds everywhere. So all over two know the morality of cruelty.
I do not need the protection of a two and a half year old girl. No. But I'm proud to have it.