There were all sorts of warnings about the bitter cold that grips Newmarket so we bundled up warmly when we went out to the First Night party being held in a sports complex near us. We were to meet Marissa and the girls there. We were able, much to our shock to get really good parking because the disabled spots were virtually empty. I rolled in while Joe got our stuff out of the car.
People were flowing in through the door and when there was a break in the stream, I moved in and finally got into the warmth. My hands were burning from the cold. My wheelchair had only been in the trunk for less than 10 minutes but it was colder than ice and my gloved simply didn’t protect me from the cold. But I was in and seconds later Joe joined me.
Marissa called and said that she was having trouble finding parking but would be there soon. We took that time to check the place out and see what was there. A fellow in a wheelchair with a ‘STAFF’ shirt was sitting near the top of the stairs and giving people information. We lined up and when we got to him, I began asking about the various activities, like the bouncy castle kingdom that had been set up on the skating rink below. I’d seen that they’d covered the ice with wood but would I be able to get up an on to the ice. He explained what they had done to make it and other activities accessible. In short, there were no areas of the center that I would not be able to enter and be with everyone else. A good start.
We met up with the girls and their mom and the evening began. We went from room to room, mostly us adults watching the kids do their stuff and have fun. They were all over that joint and they bouncy castled for well over an hour. Then we went up to where a live band was playing and they danced and mimed and tried successfully to make us all laugh.
We had a good time.
Nothing happened. In a crowded building, I navigated through the crowds easily because people made space for me. No one paid very much attention to me at all. It was like they were so focused on their own evenings and their own good times that they simply left me alone. No weird comments. No inappropriate friendliness. No insistent offers to help. None of it.
It was one of the few times that, in a crowd of people, I began to relax.
This is what I want more of – people who are interested enough in their own lives that they aren’t compelled to enter into mine. I want more time in public space feeling if not safe, safe enough. Difference only attracts attention when it makes an unduly extraordinary impact on people who need something from it. Last night they needed something from the evening, not me. And what a relief that was.
We drove home after the fireworks, which we were able to watch from the car, sitting in warmth and having an excellent view.
And they were the only fireworks that happened, no social fireworks went off, even in a crowded space, even with my difference fully on display.
It was a great way to bring last year to a close.