I received my first wheelchair when I was 10 years old. Before that magical day, I got around using a variety of methods. If I was going a short distance, I walked with a walker and braces, or with crutches, and for a while, I was able to walk unassisted. If I was going a longer distance, my family and I got pretty creative. My absolutely favorite option was having my dad pick me up and sit me on his shoulders. I went from being 4 foot something to being over 6 feet tall in a blink of an eye(my dad is 6 feet tall). I got to play in his hair and ask him questions such as, “Dad, would you ever get a Mohawk?” When my dad wasn’t around, I would either use a rental wheelchair or would sit on a bench. These were the customary options until one particular visit to my mom’s family.
Whenever we went to visit my mom’s family, my sister and I always had a sleepover at one of our aunt’s and uncle’s houses because they had two little girls(they now have 4 daughters) that were almost the same age as my sister and I and we loved playing together. Our sleepovers generally involved copious amounts of pizza and soda, lots of giggling and running around and the required horror movie(during which I would be curled in a ball on the couch with my hands over my eyes, asking “Can I look now?” I didn’t quite get the “I-enjoy-horror-movies” gene that runs in our family). The four of us basically took over my aunt’s and uncle’s house and had a blast doing so.
During this particular visit, we were playing in the basement of my cousins’ home. Most of my cousins’ toys were in the basement. We were running around, making up games and just enjoying each others’ company. I got tired and my legs began to hurt, so I sat down to rest. This was nothing new. My sister and cousins knew the routine. Usually, I would sit down for a while and when I felt better, I would rejoin the action. While I sat, they would still talk to me and include me in the jokes and games. This time, however, was different. I was beyond pooped and knew I would just watch for the rest of the night. I wasn’t ready to concede the fact that I should go to bed, but I knew my legs could no longer carry me through all of our running around. So, I sat for much longer than usual. My sister and cousins, noticing my extended absence from the rousing games, asked when I was coming back to play.
I said, “My legs still hurt, so I’m just going to watch.” They were highly dissatisfied with this answer and began to brainstorm an alternative. Now, it’s still unclear just who came up with this idea(my cousin, Melanie, and I still try to remember to this day), but someone(NOT me) suggested I get in my cousins’ toy shopping cart and they would take turns pushing me around the linoleum floor. For those reading this who are children of the ‘80s or ‘90s, I’m sure you’ve seen these shopping carts. They are yellow and orange, have teeny wheels and are completely made of plastic. If you want to see a picture of a shopping cart just like my cousins’, you can click here.
Confronted with the suggestion of using their toy for my mobility, I thought, “There’s no way this is going to end well! I’m too big and I will break it.” However, my sister and cousins were convinced that I wouldn’t break it and furthermore, this was the best way to get me back in the action without hurting my muscles.
“Allison, you barely weigh 40 pounds soaking wet. The cart will be fine,” one of them said.
I have to admit, I was getting excited at the prospect of playing again. And, I was the youngest of the group, so naturally, they knew better than me. Right? I took one long look at the cart, listened to every fiber of my tiny being screaming ”Get us back in the action! Enough of this sitting around stuff,” and I agreed to get in.
One of them picked me up, put me in the cart and slowly pushed it around the basement. When we were sure it would safely hold my weight, we were off to the races! They pushed me at top speed around the basement. It was a blast!! I had never moved that quickly in my entire 6 years of life!! I let out squeals of 6 year old delight! I was thrilled to be back in the action. My sister, cousins and I continued playing our same games for a while, but then someone had an idea of a new game that could only be played with me in the cart.
The game was… Who can push Allison the furthest? They all lined up on one side of the basement. Each one pushed me once and whoever pushed me the furthest won. Not only was I in the action… I WAS THE ACTION!! In retrospect, I think my aunt and uncle would have ended that game swiftly if they knew about that particular model of inclusion. Aaahhh, the joys of childhood.
Every time Melanie and I talk about that night, we both crack up laughing at our younger selves and wonder what on earth we were thinking. Whatever we were thinking, I am so grateful that she, my sister and my oldest cousin, Lakita, were determined that come plastic shopping cart or high water, they were going to make sure I was in the action!6 people like this.