Disability, Reindeer Games & Reflections

We’re smack-dab in the holiday season, in the thick and on the hunt double-checking good deals to snatch up and wrap up. Not quite past festive feels, family feuds, fruitcake, flat notes sung by engorged folks, and the flatulence that sometime ensues from consuming indulgent food.

“Your eyes are bigger than your stomach” my grandmama’s take on overstuffing one’s plate. *rest her soul* It was greed, her good banana pudding, peach cobbler, and sweet potato pies that had our eyes and nose bucked wide-open, kept us strung around that table like Christmas lights fighting for the last slice of something sweet. Flinging slick comments and bickering about her favorites as heavy “HUSH” was heaped on us all.

After a good hushing and cussin’ out we’d sometimes sloth over to a spot on the couch and plop down for a Christmas flick. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was a fave growing up and back then I gushed over his glowing…abilities. My eyes gleaming and wide to the underdog “overcoming” this hurdle of being outcast to leader of the pack.

Many years later those same eyes squint and brows furrowed at the ableism, abuse, rejection and selection after folks found usefulness in Rudolph’s gem—the very thing that set him a part was what made him valuable to the group. When Santa realized and asked that he guide his sleigh he happily obliged. Of course this is after he finds some comfort and commonality outside of his own family and community. He also learns some life skills, builds confidence, and grows leaps and bounds, literally and figuratively.

Grown up me wishes he’d dismissed this ask and told him to kiss his asset with a great big “buck ewe” and diddy-bopped off across the frozen tundra. Coattails and caribou swagger, hat cocked to the side, disability pride and a blinking beaker/light saber cutting though fog with clarity of purpose and pointing hooves to chest proclaiming “What’s mah naaaaame?” *drop that beat with heavy bass* Ahhh shet he done woke up the yeti now, here come “Bumble” bouncing through the snow-covered trees like he came to party and bit upset he didn’t get an invite. Throwing his hands up and looking ’round for a red cup ‘çause he came to get dow-owwwn, dancin’ and avalanchin’.

Oh the holidaze and praise of long lost days, with loved ones we’ve lost along the way. The ones who made it all feel seamless, dreamy-like, when we had little to worry about in the way of adult concerns like bills and rent, mortgages, making dollars stretch to pay day when we adult play played too much. I think about the years we take with us and the kid in us we allow to spring up and fill us with joy when we’re feeling low. When the glow is gone, or dimmed. When sparkle fizzles out and flavor is bland, when nothing goes as planned. As kids we never really seemed to care as adults we wax on hollering about how much life ain’t fair.

So here’s to keeping some of the kid in us when the frigid temps and times turn up. May we all find sense of family and community how ever we compose it. May we move past the idea of “overcoming” our disabilities to be seen and valued as whole human beings. For many of us we know it ain’t “despite” our disabilities but *because* of them we have acquired many life skills, world views, and sensitivities that have aided our journey. Our disabilities are encompassing, permeating every aspect of our lived experience and we take ’em with us wherever we go, even when they’re like whiny siblings in tow. All things in context and part of comprehensive package.

Just like Rudolph using what we have cutting through the fog of uncertainty, finding confidence and self-acceptance, and lighting up our own path.

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