Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Great Saturday BBQ - Not in My Dreams

Yesterday, I went over to a FB friend's house for a get-together. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you; Judi is not outgoing, but she loves to be around outgoing people. So, intrepid little me, shy seeker of life and experiences, went for a nice ride out onto Carolina country roads totally read for some good old-fashioned BBQ. Plus, she said they had wine and I cannot pass up a good glass of chilled Moscato.

Moscato Asti - great chilled! [Description: Glass of sparkling Moscato]
I took my youngest son with me, and my Honey (the wonderful man in my life right now) drove us down the highway until we began to meander down single lane roads passing gorgeous ranch homes surrounded by hydrangeas, roses and freshly cut lawns. It was the perfect setting for a cookout.

It is a great thing to finally meet your FB friends in person! We laughed and hugged while she introduced me to her friends and family. As this is kin to my Honey, it was a short hello as the bonds of their family quickly became new bonds for me.

As more people arrived, one person in particular caught my eye. Her husband removed a wheelchair from the trunk of their car, and she rolled up onto the patio with ease and comfort. As new introductions started again, I learned her name: Nikki Crawford.

As I sit here now writing about the event, one thing keeps reverberating in my mind. I never learned why Nikki was in a wheelchair. I never learned about any difficulties or obstacles she faced in her life due to dealing with a disabling condition. What I heard about was "Nikki Crawford Cookies." Here sitting next to me was a baking chef! She and her husband had just moved into a new house, and the running joke was whether 13 days was enough time to let them get settled in before someone could call in an order! Although she hadn't brought any cookies to the event, it was an ongoing topic of discussion all evening. By the time we were leaving, my mouth was watering, and I wanted a sample of everything! To make things even better, my FB friend said she would pay for my first order of NC Cookies just because they were that good! So, I am looking forward to a care package of cookie goodness to arrive in a week or two.

Neiman Marcus Cookies - waiting for the Nikki Crawford version! [Description: Stack of chocolate chip cookies on a white plate placed on a red, white and black gingham tablecloth]
This is what I want for everyone, and I am crazy enough to fight for it. There wasn't any derision or politically correct shyness. There were no hushed tones of "Let me explain about Nikki." All that mattered about Nikki was her friendship to the people at the table, and those darned cookies!! It is what I want for so many people in this world, including my children; the chance to talk about one's skills, how they contribute to the world and what makes them happy.

What was more important at that table full of foodies, who discussed red velvet cake like it was a science project, was having a good time. Another baker at the table brought that rich, red hued, triple layered dessert, and everyone raved about his baking skills. We talked about wine. I sampled everything: a crisp, but not too dry Chardonnay, a fruity Riesling with its notes of peach, and a wonderfully chilled sparkling Moscato that complemented the sweetness of the dessert perfectly from its heady sugar rush at the beginning to its bubbly finish. There were tales of home-cooked meals and who cooked pancakes and waffles from scratch (me!). With typical, southern, African-American soul-food cooking flair, a discussion then centered on the proper way to cook greens and the perfectly grilled white and yellow corn we had that night.

By the time we were ready to leave, I was stuffed, had been hugged half to death, and was giddy with the thought of future dessert delicacies.

My thoughts? The reason self-advocates and parent advocates fight so hard is for just an evening like last night. The ability to roll or walk up to a group of people and be accepted as a viable member of a community, without prejudice or ridicule, should be the right of every person in this country. The ability to explore one's skills and make a living (if they so chose) from them should not rest on whether one walks.

There are many who do not go out of their homes for fear of rejection and ridicule. There are young adults, who are not asked what they would like to be when they grow up, but are corralled into supported job sites with barely a chance to support themselves.

Our fight continues because there are others unlike Nikki Crawford, who do not get the chance to express themselves and feel proud of their accomplishments. They don't get a night out to laugh and be accepted And, that is a loss with which no one should be comfortable. No one should have to only dream about a night and a life like that.

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