The more-than-a theatre trip

On Tuesday, I went to hospital for the third of my six-monthly bone-strengthening infusions. The first time I had it, I was in bed for a couple of days with flu-like symptoms, but the second and third have been pretty straightforward, with no obvious side effects. Still, when I woke up on Wednesday I was half expecting to feel terrible, and it was a relief not to. But then I noticed that Joseph had an angry-looking rash behind and around both of his ears. So I took Elodie to nursery and made a doctor’s appointment for Joseph. Google told me that rubella usually starts around the ears, and I wished I hadn’t looked.

The GP thought the rash could be measles, rubella or the old favourite, a virus. I assured her that Joseph has had his immunisations. She told me that Public Health keep track of cases of measles and rubella, so they would contact us to arrange a blood test. No nursery. So Joseph and I spent a couple of days at home while the rash got angrier and he displayed no other symptoms whatsoever. Mostly, he watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I read to him, because we can’t always do those things when Elodie’s around.

By Friday, when public health called to say they would send out a ‘spit test’ in the post, we were pretty sure the rash was nothing serious. It hadn’t spread over his body, and it was going down, and he was fine. But all of this meant I hadn’t really had time to think about my theatre trip that night; the one I’d bought the tickets for a year ago. I’d phoned the box office, ignoring all the recorded messages telling me to book online, and asked for three tickets to Matilda, one of which was suitable for a wheelchair user. I’d explained that my sister might not be able to go, and that if that was the case, I’d call again nearer the time to explain. A couple of times, the woman I was speaking to said that if my sister was no longer in a wheelchair by then, they could change our tickets. I explained that she’d definitely be in a wheelchair, and it was about whether or not she’d be able to come at all.

Months ago, my sister’s friends Rachael and Dawn bought tickets for themselves and Rach to see Dirty Dancing, but she wasn’t able to go, and they kindly took me instead. So it was great that this time we were going to try it. Mum had booked the wheelchair taxi and spoken to the care home about having Rach ready to go out at the designated time. All the same, I was anxious. What if it was too soon? What if it was too much for us to manage? What if it was a disaster?

It wasn’t. It wasn’t any of those things. From when we arrived to pick Rachel up, it was clear that she was on good form. If you ignored the fact that we had to get there in a special taxi, and that the driver had to spend five minutes strapping the wheelchair in, you might have just thought it was a mum and her daughters going to the theatre. We spent the journey there making fun of mum and each other. At one point, I reminded them that when we were kids, Mum started letting us choose a tape instead of an Easter egg each year. The first year, I told them, I chose Right Said Fred and Rach chose Neneh Cherry. Which was a good indicator of how much cooler she was. ‘As if we didn’t know that,’ Rachel said, with half a smile.

When we got there and found our seats, I slid in next to the wheelchair space and Mum manoeuvred the wheelchair into position. Her seat was in front. But then we realised the four other people on the row wouldn’t be able to get in, so Mum stood up, waiting for them to arrive. We took a few selfies. And without us even noticing, the four occupants of those seats arrived and climbed over the back of their seats so we didn’t have to move. I smiled at them and hoped it conveyed my thanks.

I’ve seen Matilda a couple of times before, and I love it. I snuck a few glances over at Rach during the first half and she seemed to be enjoying it, too. In the interval, we found a sofa and I had a glass of wine while Rach and Mum shared a glass of prosecco. It felt like a celebration. And it was.

Mum and I swapped seats for the second half, so I was in front. When it finished, and coloured paper rained down from the ceiling, I turned and saw Rachel’s face – jubilant. Later, they told me that they’d clapped together, because Rach can’t use her left hand. It was raining when we left the theatre and we had to wait a few minutes for the taxi. But then we were on our way home and Rachel was still wide awake and sharp, and we ate Twirls, which Mum had brought with her and we’d forgotten to eat.

We’d done it, and it had been better than I’d dared to hope it might be. It was only when the taxi pulled into the care home’s car park that my heart dropped a little. I wondered how it felt for her, that she couldn’t just go home. But if she was upset, she didn’t show it. We saw her inside and said goodbye, and we left her there with the carers who were waiting to put her to bed. I couldn’t sleep for a while when I got home. I thought about the night we’d had, and about one of the songs from the show. ‘It isn’t much, but it is enough for me.’

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