Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Let the Magic Begin

The day started out super special -- the Shrader family was invited to "open" Disneyland complete with early entrance, getting the cherished entrance photo before anyone else was in the park, and our little crew shouting "Let the Magic Begin" before the first guest was allowed to pass through the turn stile. No doubt our cheesy matching t-shirts had drawn some attention. No doubt the fact that we were clearly one family with two wheelchairs had drawn some attention.

My brain immediately flashed back to an encounter last month where two of the boys closest friends noticed -- and made jokes -- about the fact that the boys often get special attention at some places (i.e. Star Wars Conventions, Disneyland). Benjamin thought it was a funny joke. Mason was inclined to laugh as well. I was hurt. And in true Mama-bear fashion, attempted to explain how to these young men that while they, both amazing thespians, can run, jump and even flip onto stage in a performance, Benjamin and Mason never will. While they can walk, jog or dance to any and every place they desire to go, Benjamin and Mason can not. One friend nodded in somewhat understanding and then said, "So, getting special treatment balances things out."

At which point my head spun right off my body, exploding in the room and leaving all manner of emotional mess. Sigh.

Yesterday brought all those emotions rushing back. Yes, we received some special attention for about five minutes at our happy place. But can I tell you about the next couple of hours:

We headed immediately to Matterhorn -- hoping to get a chance to ride the roller-coaster before the line was too long. We already knew that Benjamin and I would sit out however. The vehicle for Matterhorn does not accommodate Benjamin well and the ride it self is super hard on him because it is so jerky. Since his spine fusion, he has to pass on this one.

The line was already too long -- navigating crowds with six people, two in wheelchairs isn't a fast process, even if you are first through the gate.

We then went to ride Space Mountain. Disneyland has the best loading for Space -- the track actually moves a vehicle aside so that we can load at our leisure and then it slides us back to the track. Still, Wade lifts Benjamin, while I guide B's legs into the ride, while the girls are helping Mason out of his wheelchair and making sure his power sticks are securely put away. After the ride, we do this all in reverse. Me helping Wade lift B, before I turn to help Mason while Claire and Cate are grabbing the wheelchairs and bringing them forward to us.

Deep breath and we are off to ride number two. Yesterday, we decided to try Alice's Wonderland Ride -- only certain rides are available during early entry. Once again, Wade lifted Benjamin out of his chair and into the cart. Mason climbed aboard too while the girls and I moved wheelchairs.

After Alice we rode the teacups where it takes both Wade and I to get Benjamin through the narrow teacup door and seated somewhat securely. It is my turn to hold him stable. Mason, Claire and Cate share a teacup and delightedly make it spin faster and faster. Wade, B, and I were happy to sit and just ride for bit. Actually we did take two turns -- special treatment, again, right? -- before unloading in reverse.

The next ride was Storybook Boats. The kids only ride that one for me. It makes me smile so big to ride through Monstro's mouth and into the Storybook land. But today it was hard. We had not ridden in years, and had forgotten why. I loaded the boat and Wade handed Benjamin down to me. The bench was not a height that really allowed him to stabilize himself, so he basically laid on me for stability the entire ride. So not only was I balancing myself, I was balancing him. Unloading was just as tricky as the cast member kept talking about  balancing the boat so it didn't overturn. Oh my goodness, that is exactly what I needed to happen!

I say all of this to say that by 9:30, we were all tired and grumpy and had lost a bit of our magic. (Of course in our matching t-shirts people kept stopping to talk to us about opening the park....) We finally just pulled over and circled up as a family to decompress a bit, to admit that it is hard sometimes, to grieve the fact that Mama can not lift Benjamin as high as I could when he was little so that makes it harder, and to determine that yes, we still have fun here and yes, we want to go on having fun.

And in my head, I was thanking God for the "special treatment" we had received early that morning. But I was also wishing I could help my sons' friends understand. The special treatment did not balance the hard stuff out; the special treatment did not make the muscles any less tired after a full day of lifting in and out of rides and wheelchairs. No, instead the treatment speaks to us, it says, "Hey, we see you. We see how amazing your children are and we see that perhaps maybe this is a little bit harder for you than the average family. Let us make it a trip to remember."

And that little bit of understanding is where the magic really begins.

Carol - The Blessings Counter


GreenGirl said...

We found the Disney experience worse than last time. The new rules had us waiting extra long, longer than fellow able bodied riders. I don't think we'll ever go back. Have a great adventure going castle to castle. No doubt you have better attitudes and tolerance levels than us.