by Katrina Hill
Originally posted for the Hidden City Blog Post assignment in DST 501
It had been a long summer; a summer of changes and a summer of success. On that last day of school in June 2017, our five-member family moved out of our home located in our rural community into a 30-foot trailer on the lake. We were moving to the country located twenty minutes from town however first, we needed to build our home.
Hudson was four years old and would be transitioning from daycare to school. His daycare was instrumental in his learning and care; the teachers came alongside us when he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease. Leaving them behind was like leaving a pillow and blanket, our comfort and familiarity. Hudson would start school in the fall. Would he be accepted? Would he be invited to birthday parties? Would he die while a student at this school?
The hole was dug, walls formed, and the first nail went in on Canada Day weekend. My husband built our home in record timing; he ensured we could be in our new and accommodating home for the fall. Everything worked out seamlessly and on October 30th we moved into our new home, fully finished top to bottom.
School was perfect for Hudson; he was loved, adored and all the children wanted to play with him. My heart was filled with joy however cautiously reserved for that moment when Hudson would not be popular anymore, after all it was Junior Kindergarten.
Shawn and I believed taking the children on an adventure would be something we could all benefit from; after all, the girls hardly complained during the summer, we were busy building, planning, and finishing a home, and school had been a success so far. One of the few activities Hudson could keep his focus on was hockey, and we were ecstatic that our team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, would be playing in Ottawa. Shawn and I booked the afternoon off on November 16th so we could take our time to drive to Ottawa, have supper, and find the best place to park. Of course, a hockey game would not be a hockey game without the five of us wearing our Penguins jerseys in a sea of Senator fans.
Before the game started, we went down to the ice to watch the players warm up. The smile and excitement on our children’s faces made me forget that one day our life will look different. In that moment, we were the Hills on an adventure ready to catch a glimpse of ‘Syd the Kid.’
I left with Hudson just before the first hockey period was over; every woman knows to beat the rush and the lineup at the bathroom, you must sacrifice missing a bit of the game. Success! No line up!! Hudson and I walked hand in hand while I carried his diaper bag. I stopped and looked anxiously at the change table built for an infant and toddler in the direct line of women that were coming in behind me. The builders placed the change table on the wall in between the washroom sinks and the door. I could feel my anxiety rising. The hockey period was over, and it was getting busy in the washroom. I lifted Hudson onto the table, and I observed the table fall further toward the ground. I could feel the physical stress and anxiety in my body, the table that marginally fit Hudson lengthwise, now appeared to be unfit to hold Hudson’s weight. I attempted to take my things out to change Hudson however I was worried the change table would break. I looked around and found the accessible washroom; we went into the stall and as I shut the door, the tears fell down my cheeks. I found his one-piece pair of pyjamas in the diaper bag and laid them on the floor and then placed Hudson on top of them. I proceeded to change Hudson’s diaper on the floor of that bathroom stall. The anger, worry and anxiety shifted to tears of sadness, helplessness, isolation, and fear. I gathered my belongings, picked my son up off the floor and excitedly said for Hudson’s sake, “let’s go see Crosby.”
In my mind, body, and heart, I was utterly crushed with despair. That change table told me the world around says I am defeated, unworthy, and embarrassing. It further told me that my son was not valuable enough to be a consideration in this harsh world. It was a reminder that the spaces and places I will take my son moving forward in life, as he further declines in cognition and mobility, will be conceptual ideas based on the ‘normal’ person. “Ableism is connected to all of our struggles because it undergirds notions of whose bodies are considered valuable, desirable and disposable.” (Mingus)
I returned with Hudson to our seats. He sat with a smile on his dad’s lap intently watching the hockey game I knew he would love. I bought those tickets for that exact moment for my family, for the joy of being together, and providing everyone with a memorable experience. I sat for the duration of the game with a different memorable experience.
I identified with Ryan Knighton in his podcast “Baby Steps” on This American Life when he said, “Out of her came a glee so powerful enough to start my heart again. A laugh like I’ve never heard before.” In other words, even though my son was treated unjustly and it broke my heart into further pieces, I was relieved when I saw the joy in Hudson’s face when he returned to his seat. Likewise, Ryan taking his daughter for a walk, he was surprised and relieved to hear the laughter from his daughter but the podcast ends with the SUV driver saying, “You should be careful, he said from out the window, and sped away.” This statement leaves Ryan and I both understanding that ‘at the end of the day’ disablement is still our reality.
“I imagine a world where our organizing and activism is less segregated, where our movements and communities are accessible and don’t participate in the isolation of disabled communities. I imagine places where we fight for whole and connected people, families and communities.” (Mingus)