I left Mikelle home as I took my sandaled feet this November evening to the weather worn outdoor couches at the local Starbucks, also known as “The Beach” for its expansive patio, fire pit, and overhead warming lamps. Not a snowflake to be found. Although, Starbucks is doing its best to ring in the holiday season.
Sprigs of holly and red cup decals wishing me to “Share the Cheer” greet me as I order my peach tranquility tea, served in a white porcelain cup. This patio has become one of my favorite writing spaces; it is quiet yet active.
I hear the sound of geese flying overhead in the darkness as they honk to each other deciding whether or not to travel south. The decision made harder by the Christmas lights buried in autumn leaves that have refused to fall and the faint scent of a late blooming November rose. The temperature hovers around sixty degrees as the half-moon rises in a clear dark sky.
The Christmas ads blanket the post-election airwaves. Christmas blend coffee is nestled on store shelves. A pony-tailed blonde woman just walked by in shorts and running shoes.
Not a typical holiday season, but then again—this has been anything but an average year.
Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and it still feels like summer. Nonetheless, the preparations for the holiday season can add some extra stress for everyone. For the special needs family, it can be a special kind of pressure.
There are many kinds of stress and blessings associated with the holiday season. I, for one, enjoy the lights, the music, the smell of turkey fresh out of the oven, the clink of wine glasses toasting loved ones, even a few holiday TV specials, and our favorite family card games.
What I don’t enjoy is packing up Mikelle’s wheelchair for a day-long sojourn to an inaccessible family home and helping Mikelle into small “powder room” bathrooms where we barely fit.
I don’t enjoy how easy it appears for everyone to show up, enjoy dinner, watch a little football and fall asleep, as if that would ever be an option for me.
The truth for many of us with special needs is; the holidays can be exhausting.
Experience has taught me, the less I focus on my “to-do-list” and the more I savor a smile from a stranger, the warm hug of a friend, the sound of children laughing the more enjoyable the holiday season becomes.
You can’t fix the drama others insist upon, but you can say “no” more often and “yes” to yourself. Focus on the blessings your family does experience.
Let me point out a few for all of us “special” families.
- Our kids live in communities, not institutions.
- We have the right to inclusive education, which just a few decades ago, did not exist.
- Our friends, neighbors, legislators and businesses realize our children have value and are contributors, even employers create jobs every day for members of our community. Not that long ago, the thought of people with disabilities moving into a community brought protests and instigated fear campaigns. Those are memories I shall never forget.
- We now have ABLE accounts and the Workforce Investment and Opportunities Act (WIOA) legislation designed to help people with disabilities move out of poverty.
- And, perhaps most of all, we have many dedicated professionals who work with our children throughout the years with the intent on improving their quality of life.
I challenge you to start the holidays with a gratitude list instead of a “to-do” list.
Each year the passing of the holiday season is met with relief and gratitude. I treasure the memories of my family; my eighty-seven-year-old mother who still plays tennis with me, and my sister the park ranger, who travels in from Mesa National Forest, my son, his wife and my grandchild, now fourteen and my little grandniece and nephew. And, of course, hanging out with my best girl and her team is always grand.
Still, not much comes off my plate during the holidays. A holiday recovery plan is already in the works. As Thanksgiving and Christmas pass, you will find me soaking in a hot spring tucked under a pine tree, the stars twinkling in the nighttime sky reflecting on the freshly fallen snow.
What in your holiday recovery plan?
Happy Thanksgiving! Mikelle and I are grateful for all of you and your lovely families!