I’ve got a bad habit of collecting memories I don’t have. I adorn the shelves of my mind with milestones I’ve never reached, organizing them into lavish frames that contrast the emptiness inside.
The developmental experiences comprising the majority of days for so many of my peers remain nothing but wonderments to me.
From my earliest childhood memories, I can vividly remember feeling as though I was missing out because of my cerebral palsy. Literally and symbolically cast to the sidelines, my differences often seemed to preclude me from participating in life. Even as I tiptoed into spaces that felt physically inaccessible and socially off limits, my participation seemed forced. Accessibility to social gatherings was limited; slumber parties and birthday celebrations passed without my invitation.
In my isolation, the feelings of connection and belonging I searched for remained out of reach. Try as I might not to compare myself with able-bodied peers, it’s impossible not to pine for memories I have yet to make.
New Year’s Eve always prompts a special kind of curiosity in me. The last time I engaged in a New Year’s Eve celebration, which was embroidered with the classic stitching of loud music, excitement, and sizzling anticipation, I was a college freshman.
Subsequent years have resulted in not only the absence of company, but also a deep ache for companionship. My romanticized American dream of welcoming the new year in the arms of a loving man, safe and snuggled together in a cocoon of comfort, blazes on.
I castigate myself for holding on to what seem like invisible wishes. They’re nothing but brilliant pixie dust in a beige-colored world. But part of me holds on more tightly.
In some ironic twist of events, I’ve recently had the opportunity to invite more memory-making experiences into my world than in years past. While so much of the world has been forced to retreat into the caves of isolation, I’ve somehow managed to forge togetherness. The sweet flavor of time shared comfortably with another has arrived at my doorstep time and time again over the past several months.
Despite the comfortable reliability of companionship I’ve been indulged with, every time it returns to me, I am surprised. And yet my mind continues to dream bigger dreams, punctuated by celebratory gestures. So, it should come as no surprise that my brain had big plans for New Year’s Eve. Although all evidence promised another solitary end to another year, I still clung to some magical shred.
When the doorbell rang on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, a thrill of irrational hope sang in my blood. Could he be here, after all? Upon learning it was the mailman, I nearly laughed out loud at my own buoyant hope. As footprints of disappointment tiptoed down my spine, I reminded myself he had already told me he’d be out of town today.
Fast-forward several hours, and there is again a gentle knocking at my door. In the darkened stoop of my porch, lit by a flickering light, he smiles into my eyes. Surprise.
In a flurry of disbelief, joy, and gratification, I proceed to enjoy the best New Year’s Eve celebration of my life. The flames of my betrayed body quiet just long enough for me to marinate in the minutiae of this delicacy. Giggling, tangled hair entwined, we smash our faces together for pictures. He rearranges a golden crown atop my hair as I slide sunglasses over his eyes. These are the kind of midnight photos I’ve been aching to take for the past two decades: slightly blurry, candid shots not unlike those from classic photo booths.
Looking at them now, I almost can’t believe they are real. I recall the fireworks sounding from my neighborhood, effervescent laughter as we continue to take one goofy photo after another, and the familiar strum of his voice in my ear. Happy New Year, Briana.
Yes, it is. The happiest of New Year’s yet.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disorder. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.