All the kids on the wall seemed so happy to be up there - about five feet up - and I felt bad for the girl in the wheelchair. So bad in fact, that I wanted to go over to the dad and ask if we could just toss her up there so she could be part of the other kids. I didn't do it though, because I got all choked up and would be embarrassed to cry in front of a stranger.
Later, when my friend's kid was skating, I found myself sitting on a bench next to the mother of the girl in the wheelchair. She motioned over one of the skate guard people (I don't know what they're called) and asked him if they could bend the rules, and let her get on the ice in shoes so she could hold her handicapped daughter, who would be on skates, upright. There's a rule that you MUST be on skates to step onto the ice. The skate guard said he would check with his boss.
There was a flurry of excitement and action as the parents raced to get the handicapped girl ice skated. The skate guard came back with the verdict. No. Shoes will slide unsafely on the ice, and the person wearing them would fall. Two more skate guards came over. The girl sat calmly in her wheelchair, watching her sister do rotations around the rink. Guess she's used to not being able to join in any reindeer games. All of a sudden there was a second flurry, and two of the skate guards were lifting the handicapped girl out of her wheelchair.
One stood behind her, holding under her arms, his hands clasped in the middle of her chest as he leaned forward to ask what her name was. "Ava," she told him. "Okay Ava, let's go ice skating." And they did. Her skates glided along the ice, her knees a little bent, and legs looking somewhat useless, but she was upright and she and the ice guard whirled around the rink, weaving around the hoards of people.
All of a sudden, over the music, the traffic, the people, we heard a high-pitched screech. "AVA, you're SKATING!" It was the sister, beaming, face to face with her sister. I guess holding a kid upright when leaning over them and balancing on skates is hard, because after every two rotations around the rink the ice guards switched off holding Ava upright. I have no idea what her handicap is, other than being able to see that her legs could not support her body at all. But for a half an hour, all the ice guards made it their mission to get a girl in a wheelchair on an ice rink in San Francisco. One held her up, while one cleared a path and another made sure no other skaters crashed into them.
Every time the ice guards switched off, the mother yanked Ava's sweatshirt down, since it rode up to her chest as she skated. As she yanked, she kept asking Ava if she was tired and wanted to stop. One look at her face and anyone could see Ava would keep saying no, even if she'd been naked, if it meant she could keep skating. It kind of made my day.