Growing up I always looked forward to Christmas. Friends and family gathered at our decorated home throughout the entire holiday season. We would search out the perfect tree with a saw in hand. Miles of delicious food, laughter and chaos filled our holiday table. Unfortunately, my past few Christmases have lacked many of those things. This year my mom and I have made an effort to bring back the Christmas Spirit. Last week, we added the Christmas Cabaret Concert at the Conservatory to our Christmas to-do list.
My life has changed considerably since my parents separation and divorce. Holiday traditions I’ve always cherished have disappeared. My Uncle Marv would always come over to help set up the buffet table. My grandma’s famous fruit salad was always a part of the buffet tradition. Additionally, gift opening was a large family affair. I no longer have the audience of loved ones for my annual tradition of putting the bow and ribbons from my gifts in my hair! My family also used to make a yearly pilgrimage to the warmth of Florida.
All of these things have changed. However, I have learned that as life changes, traditions have to change too. I think my mom and I realized that we have failed to make new traditions over the past few years. Trying out new holiday events has become our mission this year, so we can recapture the magic of Christmas and tradition once again.
My mom saw the advertisement for the Christmas Cabaret Concert at the Conservatory on Facebook. To make things even easier, she was able to order our tickets on-line and they held them at the will-call table. The tickets were $10 a piece, so they were fairly affordable. The tickets included 3 hours of Christmas music in three different rooms. A buffet of appetizers and desserts were also a part of the package.
As we pulled up to the Wausau Conservatory of Music, we could see immediately that parking was going to be an issue. All the accessible parking spots were taken. Actually, ALL the parking spots were taken! My mom dropped me off and went to search for a parking spot. I parked my chair in a small corner by the door. I was greeted warmly by most people. However, there are always a few who mistake me for a five year old! The minutes ticked by. I was beginning to think my mom had either been kidnapped or she decided to head to Florida on her own! When she finally returned, she told me she had to park at the police department parking lot a few blocks away. I do want to give a shout out to the Wausau Police Department for allowing us to park there!
We headed into the concert, opting to try the concert hall performances first. The guy at the ticket table was friendly. He directed us to the ramp and the elevator which would both be necessary to use to get to the other 2 rooms of music.
We finally were able to settle into the only spot available for a wheelchair. It was in the very back row and did not allow space for me to comfortably situate my chair. If I moved up to make room for people to pass behind me, I blocked the aisle. If I moved back to open up the aisle, people could not pass behind me.
Did I mention I was pretty much blocking the main pathway for people to come and go in between acts. I hate being in the way for several reasons. First, I just hate being in the way! Secondly, I do not like to be an inconvenience to anyone. Lastly, I like to blend as much as a wheelchair user with a long braided mohawk can blend. Blending is impossible when you have to continuously move your rather large wheelchair forward and backward repeatedly throughout the performance.
During the performance and breaks, I was thankfully unaware of the annoyance of several people as they had to maneuver around me. Unfortunately, my mom was a spectator to the glares and huffs of those I inconvenienced. She has a habit of biting her lip when stressed or uncomfortable. Luckily, she did not require stitches by the end of the night, but she did chew up her lip quite a bit.
After a few beautiful performances, we decided to check out the appetizers and desserts. I, again, found myself in the way. A good spot for my chair could not be found. We were beyond caring at this point. Getting up the ramp to head to the piano lounge was not enjoyable in the least. Stares met my polite “excuse mes”. Relief filled us as we found an open table in the piano lounge. There was a very talented young man playing classic Christmas songs. It was relaxing and quite enjoyable.
During this reprieve, I decided to indulge in a nice cup of coffee. I soon discovered that my startle reflex goes into hyper drive when I sip on hot liquid. However, my dark blue sweater absorbed the hot mess that splashed and spilled out of my cup. I definitely used at least $10 worth of napkins, so this night was a great investment!
We soon found ourselves alone in the piano lounge, except for the sleeping (and snoring) man in the corner. Deciding to skip the cabaret room, we headed back to the concert hall. Going down the ramp was about as much fun as going up the ramp. Suspicion grew inside of me. Was my wheelchair being mistaken for Santa’s sleigh and those who were socializing on the ramp thought I could simply fly overhead?
My mom has this line she uses frequently when I am in the midst of daydreaming. “Are you waiting for a personal invitation?” I was half hoping she would pull that line out. However, she opted for “Can you please move so his chair can get through?”
When we reentered the concert hall, it was even more difficult for me to position my chair. I ended up being even more in the way. Additionally, a lady decided to sit in the companion chair and my mom had to sit apart from me for a while. Despite all of the hassles, huffs, stares, glares and non-moving bodies, I really enjoyed the music.
The diversity of music styles, instruments, songs choices and even ages of the performers made this concert unique. The performance of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” sung by a young couple from The Tommy Award Ensemble was one of my favorites of the night. I also enjoyed the Pro Musica choir performance.
My tag line is “Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin” and I really try to live by those words. Personally, I was not too bothered by most of the inconsideration shown on this night. On the other hand, my mom was a bit unnerved. It is not my disability that bothers me (or my mom), it is how others perceive and react to it.
Normally, I don’t write about the negative aspects of disabilities. I consider myself a “can” person, this is how I was raised. However, I think this is important to talk about from time to time. Change can not occur if we don’t discuss the problems as well as the solutions.
In this case, the solution is fairly simple. Imagine yourself sitting in the wheelchair or imagine your loved one sitting in the chair. Think about how you would want to be treated, how you would want your loved one to be treated. This is a perfect guidebook on how to interact with anyone who has a disability.
Did we find a new Christmas tradition? Honestly, I think we did. Next year we plan on returning to once again capture the magic of Christmas music. We definitely will plan on arriving early to park and secure a spot before the crowds flow through. We will make a point of exploring all the rooms. Additionally, we will invite others to join us for the festivities. There is power (and comfort) in numbers.
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’!
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