Even writing that has me grinning from ear to ear. Let me say that again. I went for a walk with my son. The one who can’t walk… who hasn’t walked above a few, stumbling steps unaided for the past six years. The walking frame stayed at home. The wheelchair stayed in the car.
And we went for a walk.
It is May Day… Beltane… a time of magic, renewal and rebirth… a time when the fires of optimism are kindled and burn bright. Such fires do not need to consume their fuel, but can themselves ignite hope and make dreams flare and dance. The first email I had opened today had spoken of the spiral dance I had shared with a friend on May Day morning in Oxford. It had been a moment of sheer joy and magic. I searched for the link to the video and enjoyed both the music and the memory… Today, though, there would be no dancing… just flowers.
And it was the bluebells that did it. I should have known the day would be special when the red kite flew down so close as I got in the car. I had asked if Nick would like to come for a drive to see the bluebell woods. Last year he had missed them at their best; this year I wanted to share them in all their glory. The wheelchair was in the boot, of course, but the rough terrain of the woods was going to make it nigh impossible to use. However, there is always a way.
Our first stop was Ivinghoe Beacon, looking out over Dunstable Downs. Last year we had managed to get from the car to the fence using hobbit power… I am small enough to fit neatly under my son’s arm and provide just enough stability for him to manage a few steps if he leans heavily. At least, that was the case last time we tried. Today he was surprisingly stable as we headed for the gate, needing only a presence for balance. I left him standing there enjoying being alone out in the countryside while I wandered off to take a few pictures… and had an idea.
When I next parked to explore a small copse, I came back to find him standing, frustrated, beside the car. All well and good. When we parked close to the bluebell wood I suggested we walk across the road so he could get in amongst the flowers and really see for himself. I left him standing in the trees drinking in the beauty and marvelling at the fact he had walked so far.
There can be few things more magical than a bluebell wood where their perfume fills the air and the pale green beech leaves form a filigree canopy casting sunlit shadows on the elusive blue… but this morning there was an added magic in seeing my son standing in that sea of flowers, awake to their ephemeral glory and fragrance.
After a good while, we walked back to the car…and headed for the decadence of jam and cream scones the size of small dinner plates. Duly fortified, we set off again. There are usually mobility vehicles available in that part of the wood, but not today, which was a shame as they offer some kind of freedom. The ratting of the lightweight transit chair made further progress uncomfortable and we decided to leave. I drove back through the pretty villages, heading for a quiet car park on the Ridgeway, miles from civilisation.
There is a steep mound in the fields beyond… “What are the odds?” he laughed, explaining that it was here on this hill that he and his friends used to come mountain boarding in their teens. Out of all the many places we could have gone, some twenty miles from home, I had brought him to this one hill on a five thousand year old track. Above us a pair of red kites wheeled and watched as he leaned on the gate to the field.
“Want to climb it?”
“Hell, yes!” We set off. It is a long, steep climb for anyone, let alone someone who cannot walk.
“It’s madness, you know…” I added, halfway up the hill, surrounded by cowslips and dandelions.
“Just an observation…”
We reached the top and looked back. The impossibility of what we had just done began to sink in as we saw the tiny silver speck that was the car… with the wheelchair still packed in the boot. We sat a while as Nick told me of his adventures with the mountain boards and looked out over the Vale and the Chiltern Hills. I told him of my own adventures on the Ridgeway, where the magic had begun for Stuart and I at Wayland’s Smithy and Uffington. There had been two birds of prey that spring morning too.
Quite suddenly, my son stood up. Before I realised what he was doing, he was ten yards away. On his feet. I grabbed the camera. I’m not sure which of us was the most astonished when we grinned at each other!
It wasn’t pretty, but it was beautiful. For the next hour we laughed at his spectacular falls and marvelled at the steps he took atop the ancient mound. I stood well back with the camera as my son danced in the May and my heart danced with pride, hope and so many unnameable emotions that I cannot write.