The Christmas pantomime has become a tradition for us and we were looking forward to it. Because it's nearly the holidays, I got sick, of course. It's my second cold this season. Fa La La-cough cough cough. I decided the night before that I was going, cold or not. In the morning the whole thing seemed daunting. And let's stop here to for a bit of frank honesty.
It takes a lot more work, and a lot more worry, to do stuff like this when you have a disability.
I said it.
I worried, let me count the ways:
1) would we get a disabled parking space anywhere near the theatre
2) would the restaurant that we chose to go to beforehand be accessible, toilets and all
3) would there be a lot of snow on the sidewalks making the trip treacherous for both Joe and me
4) once at the box office would the tickets really include a disabled space, they often mess up the tickets, theatres do.
5) if we do get accessible seating, we know where it is, it's down a huge and quite steep, sloping aisle, will I get down safely in my manual chair.
6) how the hell am I going to get back up
7) if we didn't get accessible parking where am I going to get picked up
8) how many people will be bothered about the space I take on the 8 different elevator rides I'm going to have to take to make this happen
9) will I find a place to pee somewhere in between lunch and the show starting
10) will my being in a wheelchair cause inconvenience or stress for the kids.
I've stopped there because I think you get the point. We had managed everything, including an excellent parking spot and half the elevator rides. We were at our seats and the next big thing was going back up the really steep aisle between the hill of seats that rose behind me.
During intermission I asked Joe how he thought we should tackle it. I'd never been to the theatre in my manual, we'd always come in my power chair before. I knew I couldn't go up forwards, I've been working out, sure, but it's really steep and it's thickly carpeted. I wondered about walking up a couple of steps, sit and then try again. I'm a wall walker and a wall was there to be used. Joe said, "Just go up backwards."
This is something I've been doing for a while now on very steep ramps or curbs that don't have a level entrance. I'm pretty good at it.
We waited until there was room and then back up I started, going backwards all the way. Joe, Marissa, Ruby and Sadie, helpfully called out the number of rows I had yet to go, which was encouraging for me to hear the numbers steadily go down. I use my arms, my hands, my feet and my legs, and they all worked smoothly. I crested the top and, though I had to stop and catch my breath, and have a coughing fit, I made it.
We had had a wonderful time. Nothing I'd worried about came to be.
But, and let me be clear.
Every disabled person reading this knows, 'well, that's this time,' the next one is the next one and there is no predicting that the ticketing would be right or the parking available or the sidewalks passable.
It's part of having a disability.
But then, again, I realize that ... doing damns the darkness ... and it was true, my memories of the whole trip will be bathed in the light created by the sound of the kids BOOing the mean character and cheering the good one, or the sound of them singing along to an 'A Christmas Carol' version of YMCA while making the letters with their arms, or their groans at the bad puns.
But I also have a private memory, one I'll share here, it's of cresting that long, steep, carpeted aisle and realizing I'd made the top. I still had my power chair, but this time the power source, was all me.