Sound the Sirens 'cuz There's Always a Way to Lead!

That morning I had told my parents that I didn't even want to go to school.
"They're doing bicycle safety and it's dumb. I can't ride a bike. What's the point?" 
Well, the truth was I could ride a bike just not one that looked like all of my friends' bikes. I'm certain that no ten or eleven year-old still rode their tricycle around the neighborhood, never mind show up with it at school. I was embarrassed even before I got there and wanted nothing to do with the day. My parents recognized what a sticky-and-uncomfortable moment it was for me, I was their daughter who still pleaded to return to class after a fracture had happened!
Their response? "You're going to school. Maybe you can just sit in the library during bicycle safety time." So off I went, the only kid who didn't arrive to school with a helmet and shiny bicycle in hand.

You should know that this was a certain rite-of-passage for fifth graders at the elementary school. Being the oldest we trooped the halls like we owned the place, and scoffed at the "baby playground" that the kindergarten and first graders played on. By the time you became a third grader you began to look forward to that time when you'd finally be able to ride your bike to school; I remember when my older brother went through it and it never crossed my mind to think that I'd get to that day and not be able to go through the ritual as well. As the day went on I grew more sullen and quiet, resentful that I wouldn't be able to participate in this cool older kid thing - that I would probably be relegated to the library, or sit on the orange swing that hung especially for me while my aide pushed.

The bicycle safety lesson was led by the city police department. Officer C showed up and the second he did the class fell into an excited hush; we were still at that age where a shiny badge and uniform had a sort of 'in-awe' effect. He told the class the rules of the lesson, "follow my directions, stay behind your teacher, always have your helmet on.." I sat at my desk looking around at all my friends who sat on the edge of their seat, they just couldn't wait to get outside into that perfect late spring day.

I looked at my aide from across the classroom, and it was then that Officer C walked towards us.
"Sandy, would you like to ride in the cruiser with me? You can sit shotgun!" Eyes wide, I think at that moment my grin was easily the biggest one in the entire class. Officer C didn't need to ask twice, he knew by the look on my face that of course I wanted to ride in the cruiser!
As we waited for my classroom teacher to get everyone else onto their bikes, to make sure that helmets were securely and appropriately buckled into place - I went to the front of the school where his police car was parked. My aide helped me inside the front seat of the car and I won't forget the utter importance I felt. I specifically remember that I didn't turn around, I didn't want to see where the 'bad guys' sit when they're caught; instead I goggled at what looked like hundreds of switches, dials, and buttons that were all, in my mind, magically tied to the goings-on of every corner in the city.
"Okay so your friends are all behind us. You ready to lead? You're going to be giving out the lessons over the microphone. Press this button while you hold the walkie-talkie and whatever you say will come out from the speaker that's on the roof of the car." 

This was a cool moment in various ways. First off it was the first and last time I'd ever be sitting in the front of the police car ... ;-) Secondly the moment was empowering because I was shown possibility. The truth was I didn't even think I'd be able to participate! But it was because of the adults running the show who saw what was possible - they gave me a chance and an opportunity to be engaged in everything else the rest of my class was doing. 
I wish every student - disabled or not - could have the same teachers and adults I was surrounded by growing up. What may have been more than ten years ago, or just some cool joy-ride in a police car actually does have a huge impact on the way that kid grows up to become an all-possibilities embracing adult. 

I won't ever forget how you're supposed to signal a left or right hand turn on your bike. I won't forget how despite not being in a car, you still need to allow pedestrians right of way. Or the fact that you must ride single file unless you are passing someone else. "And you have to wear a helmet all the time when you're riding a bike - at least until you're 16." I could hear my voice echo from on top of the police car,
"Hey is that Sandy?! Hi Sandy!" I could hear my friends recognizing my voice.
"Hi everyone!" I laughed and thought now I'm a real fifth-grader, just like them. 

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2 Responses to Sound the Sirens 'cuz There's Always a Way to Lead!

  1. This made me cry, in a good way. My 14 month old son was just diagnosed with type1. My husband (also OI) had a childhood and support system much different than your own. Thank you for the reminder that there are GOOD memories for children with OI too.

    1. Hi Courtney,
      Congrats on the new addition to your family! Ah if I could count the ways that I am truly lucky with my good experiences, they would put to shame the stars in the sky. I am just a lucky kid and I hope your son finds the same luck in his experiences as I have.

      All the best,


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