Photo description: An accidental photo taken by my phone, not me. In it Ruby is wearing a white dress and white angel wings, that she made herself. (There is no picture of Sadie because the school asked audience members not to post pictures on line that have children other than your own in them. All pictures with Sadie, even our group photo, has other children in the background. We agree with and won’t violate the school’s request to not post pictures of their students without express permission.

We arrived at the school for the Christmas pageant at, it seemed, the same time as every other family. There was no parking left so Joe let me out at the front and helped me through the doors into the school. From there I pushed a short distance to the gym. I saw no one I knew so I rolled over to the back row, removed a chair, and made space for myself to wait for everyone else to arrive. I want to say, parenthetically, that when I saw the chairs that the audience would be sitting in I was doubly grateful for my wheelchair!

I settled in while wondering how far down the road Joe would have to go before he found a spot. Then, suddenly, beside me an angel appeared. I hadn’t noticed her approach as I’d been looking around the gym imagining it full of kids and noise and fun. Ruby and Sadie both like playing in the gym, the stories they told began to take shape. When I turned to see Ruby all in white with angel wings I was startled at her seemingly magical appearance. Her shoes must have had very soft soles.

When I saw her I smiled and she reached forward and gave me a hug. A very public gesture of welcome, intended for me more than anyone else. I gave her a half hug back holding my hands, still in mucky gloves from the push through slush, away from her. She told me that she and her mother had made space for me up at the front and bid me follow her to the spot. I rolled behind her to a space, second row back. Marissa had saved spots for all of us. Ruby was supposed, at that moment to be with her class but she chose to stay back, make sure that all was well, and then as time got closer rushed off to join her class. Only moments later, she was back, bringing Joe by the hand to the seats. Then, she was gone.

We chatted with the family ahead of us, parents and grandparents of Sadie’s best friend in school. We made room for Mike and Joss to make it to their seats. We were all there. And it started. It was wonderful. Watching kids who’d practiced get everything right. The spirit in the room sparkled. Families loving their kids,kids loving their families, all openly on display. Proud parents, proud kids, proud teachers made the air seem scented with pine. It was Christmas.

When it was over, Ruby and Sadie had done so well, we all chatted together. I asked if I could go up to see their classrooms and they both agreed eagerly. I went up the wheelchair elevator to the second floor and down behind Sadie, who dutifully pointed out where she put her coat and her stuff. Then, with care, pointed out where her best friend put her coat and her stuff. In the classroom she showed where she liked to sit and introduced me to her teacher, who she adores.

Her teacher said, “You must be Dave,” and I agreed that I must be. I felt just a tad embarrassed because Sadie kind of misinterpreted my concern that the kids tease her because of me and my weight and my chair, into my concern about being teased there myself. She had, she informed me every time I’ve seen her over the last couple of weeks, that she’d told her teacher, and knowing Sadie, countless others, that I was to be safe in that school. Sadie has a real determination when it comes to things like that. I love that about her. I decided not to explain anything to the teacher, I didn’t want to diminish or trivialize what Sadie had done. She took action. Good on her.

Then I followed Ruby down to her classroom but it was locked and I couldn’t see in. She was a bit disappointed but showed a piece of her artwork on the wall. That was more than enough for all of us who had come along for the tour.

Almost everyone was gone now. Marissa and Joe went off in search of vehicles and the rest of us stayed with the girls. Before leaving the both made the rounds giving each of us a hug. They had wanted to let us know that they were glad we were all there.

I don’t know why I stay away for so long.

Fear, in no matter what cause, is the enemy of joy.

But.

No more.