On the Road to a Miracle
Mum and Jill Sullivan, the occupational therapist from CCS, had started a Conductive Education group which I attended three times a week. Most of the others were younger than me, but we all worked together and it helped, being with a group of other kids who were facing similar challenges.
One December we were asked to take part in a Christmas concert at the Christchurch town hall. After an early morning dress rehearsal, we arrived at the town hall and lined up nervously on the side of the stage ready for our big moment.
Dame Malvina Major was out on centre stage performing a selection of Christmas carols with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. I can see myself now: impatiently waiting for our cue, my tripod sticks tapping up and down on the floor performing a dance of their own. The entrance music began and we made our way slowly onto the stage. Each of us had a helper, a mother, father, sister or brother.
Alex was first, he was Joseph. He stepped with a wide-apart gait, knees bent for balance, stamping each foot down as he went. Next was Morgan, who was Mary. She wore the robe my mother had made for her and she carried a small rod between both hands to assist her balance. I picture Morgan in my mind’s eye, walking across the stage, picking up the baby Jesus doll and putting him in the manger.
And then it was my turn. I made my entrance with the wise men. Jeremy pushed his ladder-back walking frame in front of me, his face wrinkled in concentration. I was an angel in an elegant white gown. My filmy wings were strewn with silver sequins. I walked carefully, taking my time to move my sticks in their familiar pattern, step one, stick one, step two, stick two, I arrived at the centre of the stage.
Although the stage was brightly lit, the rest of the theatre was in semi-darkness. There was just enough light to see that the auditorium was filled with people. ‘Look up at the stars,’ Mum whispered, and I did. The ceiling was sprinkled with tiny lights, a glow-worms’ grotto shining down on us.
Dame Malvina started to sing, ‘Once in Royal David’s City stood lowly a cattle shed,’ a pure and beautiful sound. She turned to face us. She was singing to us, looking only at us. Perhaps she knew the time and work it had taken all of us to get that far.
And then it was over. We’d done it. I walked off the stage hardly hearing the applause. The stage door shut and there was an explosion of noise! Absolute exhilaration! I remember it lifting me up and carrying me along, floating, on a river of joy, tumbling and turning down the corridor, bursting through the doors and depositing me in the foyer. We had done it. What an achievement! Mums, dads, friends, helpers and all of us were laughing, crying, talking and hugging.
Back to earth again. The downside of living in Canterbury was the winter. I inevitably ended up in hospital with pneumonia. So after five years, with some regret, we were on the move. Back once more to the North Island.