Yesterday we went to play badminton. I played in my youth, in my days on two feet, and I wanted to try playing while sitting in my chair. We paid a few bucks and got our wristbands and then rolled over to the gym. It was full! I’d never seen it full before, but never mind, we were here, we were going in.
Rolling through the automatic doors I noticed that the people there, playing, all could really, really, play. They, of course, noticed me the moment I came through the door.
The two people overseeing the courts welcomed us and the older of the two women got up and took the four of us over to where the rackets were kept and went over the rules of how the courts are shared. We got on right away as a group of four decided to take a break. I was nervous that I’d never hit the birdie and that this might have been a foolish enterprise.
We all agreed that we’d play, not a game, but to see how many times we could get across without missing.
Ruby said she’d play on my side because she wanted her and I to wipe the floor with Joe and her mom.
I can still feel the first time my racket hit the shuttlecock. I saw it soar straight into the net. But I had hit it and I was hooked.
We played right until the last few minutes before the courts closed.
Each of us took rests when needed and we played in odd configurations but we played and laughed and supported each other and made suggestions about how it might work better.
We laughed, a lot.
We must have become boring to watch. Because midway through I noticed that no one any longer noticed us. We were just people on court having fun. The massive guy in the wheelchair managed to hit more times than maybe expected and no one minded helping when necessary. The story that they would have told, created instantly in their minds when they saw me, was rewritten. I had traveled the journey from a freak to a fellow – a trip I make a lot.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving Sunday. We went home to prepare a feast for us, Sadie came from a sleep over and was part of the celebrations.
We didn’t sit and talk about what we were thankful for, instead we just enjoyed what we were thankful for.
If I had to make a list, just from that day:
I’m thankful I have people who are willing and supportive to let me try to do things I think I probably can’t do.
I’m thankful that I have people who will walk into a room and get the second hand staring that they get on my arrival.
I’m thankful for people like the woman who welcomed us in the gym and who clearly wanted us there and wanted us all to have fun.
I’m thankful for whoever decided that there would be access to both the building and the gym where we played.
I’m thankful for the disability community that fought for the right to access, their contribution can never been forgotten.
I’m thankful to be part of a disability community that continues to teaches me that I have the right to public space.
I’m thankful that, in my heart, I have come to believe that the opinions of others aren’t needed when considering doing new things.
And, of course, I’m thankful for cranberry sauce.