Before the age of 6 I had been married three times. The first marriage was to Tony Barber of Sale of the Century fame, the second was to Greg Evans from Perfect Match and then I decided to give Tony another go. Each ceremony was a lavish affair including a party attended by all the most well-connected dolls and teddies and of course at each wedding the bride wore white (an old white shower curtain). I should clarify that when I say Tony Barber I refer to our old Hills hoist clothes line and Greg was one of the posts that held up our pergola. I do ask that you respect my choice of husband, I was a child of the 80s. Sadly all three of these marriages ended in divorce.
From each marriage I had three children Melissa, Madissa(because it rhymes with Melissa) and George. I don’t mean I had one child per marriage I literally had all three children all three times. As a child I was told that babies came when you got married. Therefore Melissa, Madissa and George appeared and disappeared at the beginning and end of each relationship. When you were married you had children and when you weren’t you didn’t, it was as black and white as that. Thankfully I no longer hold this belief and I also know where babies come from. They come from the cabbage patch!
We have all heard the saying sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. Actually, yes they can, especially when they are accompanied by actions.
As a child with a fairly obvious disability I was always wrapped in cotton wool. I was never stopped by my parents from trying things but if ever alone in the company of other adults you’d swear I was completely incapable of any movement at all.
One of my happiest childhood memories was visiting my Grandma every Sunday at her house in Cottesloe. That house was a child’s delight, in every corner there were fun things to do and as far as Grandma was concerned as long as we didn’t hurt ourselves we could do whatever we wanted. My favourite thing was dragging the two very old trollies she had in her workshop come garage come junk storage shed, to the top of her very steep driveway that was at least 50 m long. Once we got to the top my brother and I would take one trolley each and race down the driveway. These were pallet trolleys so they had no brakes and no steering. You would sit on it at the top, lift your legs, and hope for the best. The only way to stop would be to put your legs down and sacrifice the back of your heel or let the trolley run into something which it would often do. I loved doing this, not only was it exhilarating, but doing it myself and being responsible for my own safety gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment and a confidence in my ability to look after myself. I have no doubt we were being monitored through the kitchen window but at the time the belief that we were capable was empowering.
Then there were the countless hours we would spend towing each other up and down our street on our bikes connected by nothing more than a flimsy plastic skipping rope. Helmets weren’t the law then and so we didn’t wear them. Mum knew we’d look out for each other and that we’d come and find her if we needed to. I had lots of fun being the master of my own destiny and would always be sure to wave at Nonno (Who lived next door) as we whizzed past. It only occurred to me later that he wasn’t actually weeding the garden he was keeping an eye on us.
It was frustrating and hurtful then that despite surviving all my Evel Knievel activities I could still find myself on the sideline when other children were having fun because of the fear I would be hurt. I have only ever broken one bone in my life and that was not from doing anything dangerous. It was from doing the Macarena. I slipped on a sock. All the surgery I have had (23 operations to date) were not from being reckless but rather to fix things as they cropped up. I would really like people to learn that disability does not always equal sickness or fragility. Dignity is just as important as protection.
I am ashamed to say that I still struggle with it and as a result still see myself as less capable or less deserving than others. I am working on this….
I still haven’t quite gotten over my Evel Knievel tendencies although they have changed somewhat. Yesterday I took a Sunday morning ride around Lake Claremont perched on the armrest of my boyfriend’s power chair. The sun was shining and the wind was in my hair. God it was fun!!