I have often wondered why I had it so easy with my disability growing up. I could have been the perfect victim. My first hearing aid was actually an amplifier that I wore in the class. I remember sitting there with this giant headset on my head and the kids thought it was so cool. I would pretend that the giant box and head set gave me special powers to communicate with martians. The kids were very impressed.
Then I wore a hearing aid that had wires running down into a little box. My mother made pockets to match my dress. The only problem was the box would slip out of the pocket when I was jumping rope with my friends on the playground. My first behind the ear aid solved that issue. It also was less noticeable.
Is that why I wasn't a victim? Is it because kids might not have known? I think it was my neighborhood that saved me. Yes, it was Apache Lane, where all the children played and loved each other unconditionally. All I had to do was walk out the door and they were there for instant fun. No one seemed to care that my hearing was bad, because I could do a fabulous cartwheel and had a great imagination for when we played ghost in the dark.
We would play hide behind the bushes on summer nights. The game was simply to scoot along the bases of the bushes without being seen by the kid at the top. It was great fun! Pioneers meant dressing up in old cast offs and following our leader, Ronda down the street. If I remember correctly, I was the one who played the part of the expectant mother, giving birth in the wagon on the prairie. This was because I could cry on command.
The years passed and we graduated to shopping together at sidewalk sales and posing together for homecoming pictures. It was a true village where the mothers cared about all of us and the kids were a strong pack. They were more than just my neighbors, they were my protectors.
The years have passed. We all have our own children now and live in different neighborhoods. Thank God I had Apache Lane for my childhood, a place where a disability was a non-issue. My neighborhood kid friends loved me and I loved them. They gave me that sense of acceptance that was enough to last a lifetime.
We didn't have big houses or fancy cars, but what we had was the most important thing of all...neighbors where the doors were always open and love was unconditional. A place where a child could be different and it just didn't matter.
It is so hard for so many children these days, struggling for acceptance, battling depression and often victims of mean behavior. What this world needs is more Apache Lanes to protect and nurture our kids.
My mom still lives in the same house on Apache Lane and when I go to visit her, I tell her that "this place will always feel like home."