Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 4- Joy to the World! Installment Ten

**

“Jaci, are you ready yet?” Abby asked impatiently. “The wedding was supposed to start ten minutes ago!”

“Almost!” Jaci cried.

“Cut her some slack,” I said as Noel put on my shoes.

“Jaci should have done what Zach and I did,” Abby said. “Everybody show up before ten thirty, and the wedding starts when we’re ready.”

“Ready!” Jaci said opening the door of the bridal chambers.

“You look beautiful,” Momma smiled.

“I think my mother would be proud,” Jaci said with a sad smile.

“Is my girl ready?” Daddy asked knocking on the door.

“You can come in,” Jaci said as she grabbed her flowers.

Daddy walked in and smiled.

“You look lovely,” Daddy said.

“Thank you,” Jaci smiled. Daddy offered her his arm and Jaci took it.

We bridesmaids filled out of the bridal chambers and found our groomsmen.

“You look pretty,” Darcy whispered in my ear as the couples started walking down the aisle.

I smiled at him.

“You nervous?” Darcy asked.

“About what?” I asked confused.

“About dancing,” Darcy said.

I don’t have time to answer him. Darcy started to push me down the aisle. I managed to plaster a smile on my face. My stomach was in knots. I forgot all about wheelchair dancing.

Darcy and I missed three weeks of practice while I was away in Pittsfield. Last night, Ms. Etta said that we were ready for the wedding. I wasn’t so sure.

The music switched from The Wedding Song to Here Comes the Bride. Everybody stood but me.

Jaci beamed as she and Daddy walked down the aisle. She looked absolutely beautiful in her handmade dress. Timmy’s smiled wide at her. In that moment then and there I knew that he loved her.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the presence of this company, to unite Timothy- Caleb Stewart and Jaci Matthews. Marriage was instituted by God. It is therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God. If anyone questions this marriage between Timothy-Caleb Jeffery Stewart and Jaci Ireland Matthews, speak now or forever hold your peace,” The pastor said.

I don’t even think Mr. Stewart would have objected. Not a sound was to be heard. Even the triplets were quiet.

“Who gives this woman to this man?” The preacher asked.

“We do,” Daddy and Momma said with tears in their eyes.

“Let us pray,” The pastor said. He prayed.

“Now the best man will read a Scripture passage,” The pastor said.

“‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul…And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it…And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him…And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.'” Darcy quoted.

“Now the maid of honor will read a Scripture passage,” The pastor said.

“‘Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.'” I quoted.

“You may say your vows now,” The preacher said to Timmy and Jaci.

“I, Timothy-Caleb Stewart, take you Jaci Matthews, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, or the Lord comes for His own, and hereto I pledge you my faithfulness,” Timmy promised.

“I, Jaci Matthews, love you, Timothy-Caleb Stewart. I am confident that God has chosen you to be my husband. I will love, honor, cherish and obey you always in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in sorrow as in joy, and will be true to you so long as we both shall live,” Jaci vowed.

“The rings please,” The pastor said. Little Austin ran from his mother’s arms. He handed Timmy the pillow with a smile.

“Thanks,” Timmy said. “Now go back to Mommy.”

Mr. Rivers stood up and picked up his son.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Timmy smiled putting the ring on Jaci’s finger.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Jaci smiled as she put the ring on Timmy’s finger.

“I know pronounce you husband and wife,” The pastor said closing his Bible. “The couple will now seal their marriage with a kiss.”

Timmy leaned down and gave Jaci a quick kiss on the lips. Jaci smiled and hugged him.

As they walked down the aisle, rice and rose petals were thrown at them. I couldn’t help but smile.

But then fear crept up into me because it was time for the reception. Which meant it was time to dance.

**

I tried not to shake too much as I watched the First Dance and the Father-Daughter Dance. Jaci wanted my first wheelchair dance to be special. She had me down as one of the dances. I was absolutely scared to death.

“How are you feeling?” Darcy whispered in my ear.

“I can’t do this,” I said shaking my head. “I want to puke.”

“Don’t do that,” Darcy said with seriousness in his voice. “We did great last night at practice. You’ll do fine.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen can I please have your attention?” Jaci asked taking a mike from the DJ. “In the past several months my younger sister, Natalie, has been practicing to dance at my wedding. As most of you know, last year Natalie was hit by a car and broke her back. She hasn’t let her paraplegia stop her. I’m so proud of her. She’s gotten so much of her life back and so soon after the accident. This was something Natalie wanted to do, and we all knew she could do it. So please give it up for my sister Natalie and her dancing partner and boyfriend Darcy Edwards!”

I felt my breakfast come up. Darcy pushed me towards the middle of the floor. I smiled at me; I couldn’t smile back.

The music blared through the speakers. Darcy took my arms and spun me.

It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter

When the snow comes to cover the ground

Its the time for play

Its a whipped cream day

I wait for it the whole year round

Darcy and I soon got lost in the song. He glided me, he spun me, he even shimmied me. And surprisingly we even back stepped. By the end of the song, all the butterflies had left my stomach and I realized that I had actually had fun dancing. People were cheering for us so loudly that I was a little embarrassed.

I looked over to where Momma, Daddy, Ms. Donna, and Ms. Etta were sitting. They all looked like they wanted to cry. Darcy pushed me over towards them.

“My baby!” Momma cried hugging me.

“Mum!” I groaned. Momma stopped hugging me and sat back down.

“You two were wonderful,” Ms. Etta said. “You two also survived the dancing test. Would you be embarrassed if I said in a couple years that could be you.”

“Well you just said it,” Darcy said with red cheeks. I laughed and smiled.

Darcy helped me to my spot. I looked around. Everybody was goofy dancing. Momma and Daddy were cooing over the triplets. And Darcy was smiling at me.

“I’ve decided something,” I said.

“What?” Darcy shrugged.

“I’m staying,” I stated.

Darcy stared at me.

“It wasn’t because of anything I said was it?” Darcy asked. “Because I want you to know that I want you to go if you want to. I’ll wait for you.”

I gave him a smile. Darcy is so sweet.

“Nope, I’ve just realized how much I love this place and how much I love all the people in this town,” I said. “I can’t leave. Not now. I mean I just got back!”

Darcy laughed.

“Natalie’s staying!”

Everyone clapped. My parents looked at me and smiled. I smiled back.

An hour later, Jaci called for all the unmarried ladies to come out to the dance floor. Every girl but Noel and I obeyed.

“You’re not going out there?” Darcy asked.

“It’s the bouquet toss,” I said. Darcy went back to his dinner.

“I don’t see the point in doing this but my sister tells me I have to so here I go!” Jaci shouted turning around. “You ladies ready?”

“Yes!” They cheered.

Now Jaci may be petite, but she has a really good arm. She threw the bouquet with so much force that it went straight over all the ladies heads and landed in Noel’s lap.

Bennet, who was sitting next to Noel, laughed.

Noel, who clearly did not want the bouquet, violently threw the bouquet into my lap.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Everybody else laughed too.

“Does this mean we’re having double weddings?” Darcy joked.

Everybody howled at that.

“Noel, you want the bouquet!” Virginia tried to explain. “Its believed whoever catches the bouquet gets married next.”

Noel just looked at Virginia’s feet and went back to her dinner.

I then got an idea.

“Virginia, catch!” I shouted. Virginia caught the bouquet. Virginia got my idea.

“Emily, catch!” Virginia shouted throwing the bouquet the Emily.

“Regina!” Emily said.

“Oh no you don’t!” Regina shouted. Regina ducked and Jessie-Maria leaped to catch it.

The bouquet toss wasn’t over until every unmarried girl in the room caught the bouquet.

“Ok,” Timmy said taking his tie off. “Since my wife doesn’t like the whole garter thing, I’ll be throwing my tie!”

All the unmarried man except Bennet got up and stood on the dance floor.

Timmy threw his tie, and it landed in Bennet’s lap.

“God, are you speaking?” Bennet asked.

Everybody laughed. Regina, who had been forced to catch the bouquet, handed the bouquet to Noel. She surprisingly took it.

“Oh, I hope the whole bouquet thing is wrong,” Virginia whispered in my ear.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I can’t wait four years for another wedding!” Virginia joked. I laughed.

Another Christmas song played and Darcy pulled me out to the dance floor.

And we danced the night away.

**

Dear Natalie,

I discovered your blog when I was searching for pictures for a report on Paris. I have to admit, at first I hated your blog. You seemed to have a perfect life. You had a large family. You’re mom was excepting triplets. You had a father and more sister than brothers. You and your family looked so happy in Paris.

My life’s not all that great. I, too, am a paraplegic. Complete T12. One of my mom’s ex-boyfriends shot me in the back. It’s a long story. Well anyway, My mom recently got remarried to this man I totally hate, and we’ve just moved again. I longed to have your life, but then I found a picture of you and your stepdad.

I was first of all shocked to find out that you had a stepdad. I was also shocked to see that you were in a wheelchair. I started to read more and more of your blog and was able to find out that you had been hit by a car last October. I was amazed at how quickly you bounced back. I would really like to hear your story. I want to know how you’ve done it. How you ended up to have this amazing relationship with your stepdad. How you’ve got through being in a wheelchair. My accident happened two years ago and I’m still bitter about it. I understand if you’re too busy and all, but I think all your readers would like to know your full story.

Keep Calm & Write On!

Charlotte Lily

I stared at my blog box. I had received this email over a week ago and I still hadn’t written anything. Summer was in full swing now. I could hear Megan and Bella out in the backyard chasing our brand new Welsh Corgi, Mistletoe.

Our brand new cat, Charlie Brown (Noel named him), strutted into my room and plopped himself on my bed.

I shook my head and went back to worrying.

“Whatca doing?” Daddy said walking into the room with Noel’s and my laundry. Momma and Daddy had put a group of things to do in a hat and whatever you pulled was your chore. Unfortunately for us, Daddy picked laundry.

“Remember that email I told you about?” I asked.

“The one for Lily Charlotte?” Daddy asked.

“Charlotte Lily,” I corrected. “I really want to post about my story and all that but I just don’t know where to begin.”

Daddy picked up a piece of paper and handed me a pin.

“Let’s say I told you to divide your life up into parts,” Daddy said. “But you can only explain your life in five parts. Where would you start? Where does it make the most sense to start?”

“Well when I came to Florida,” I said.

“So that’s Part 1,” Daddy said writing it down. “Now name it.”

“Christmas Dreams,” I said.

“Christmas Dreams?” Daddy asked as he wrote it down. “Why that?”

“I don’t know. It just seems to fit,” I said.

Soon I had my five parts down. Christmas Dreams, Marshmallow World, Heaven Everywhere, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Joy to the World!

“The rest is up to you,” Daddy said ruffling my hair.

I turned back towards the computer. I put my fingers on the keyboard.

“Please show me,” I prayed.

I closed my eyes and let my fingers fly.

And these words started back at me: How can a person not love Christmas when their name is Natalie?

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 5- Joy to the World! Installment Six

**

After about three weeks after I started to stay in my room and a week before Aunt Jane’s wedding, Noel had had enough of my mourning.

She marched into our bedroom and looked me straight in the eye.

That’s when I knew Noel meant business.

She looked at me for a second. I could tell that she struggling to say something to me. She then said the most words I believe I’d ever heard her say up until that time.

“Nobody say you find heaven in accident away. You may no know till deathbed. But you loved. You family. You purpose,” Noel said.

I was shocked. I had no idea how Noel knew about me finding heaven everywhere. I didn’t think that Noel understood that I felt like I had no purpose. But somehow she understood and what she said changed my life.

It started to ran just then. To some people that wouldn’t seem like something to be happy about, but to Noel it was the best miracle ever.

“Come!” Noel shouted. She pointed to my wheelchair. I transferred from the bed to the wheelchair.

Noel pushed me out the door and down the hall.

“Slow down!” Yule shouted as Noel zipped past him.

Noel burst the front door open and pushed me out into the rain.

“Feel!” Noel shouted running around in the rain. She was laughing and dancing. It was amazing how happy she was about such a simple thing as rain.

“Pray!” Noel screamed.

I screamed. It wasn’t really a prayer, but I screamed. I screamed with everything inside of me. I let all my anger go out of me with one big, long scream.

“Are you girls crazy?” Yule asked running out of the house. “You’re going to get yourselves sick!”

I held out my hand and let the rain dribble into it. One of life’s greatest pleasures is to just sit and let the rain fall into your hand. To just sit and forget about all your worries and just think about how awesome the rain feels.

“Kids, what are you doing?”

I turned my head around to confirm my suspicion. Daddy stood there was an umbrella in his left hand and two under his left arm.

“I love you,” I said rolling up to him and hugging his abdomen.

“I love you too, honey bear,” Daddy smiled patting my head.

“Rain!” Noel shouted. She took an umbrella from under Daddy’s arm causing the second one to fall. Yule picked up the other one and handed it to me.

“Yule! Noel! Natalie! And Steve! Please be the parent!” Momma cried in disgust from the doorway. “You’re gonna get sick!”

Noel ran to Momma pulled her hand out in the rain. Momma smiled at her and Noel gave Momma’s belly a hug.

I rolled slowly back towards the house. I didn’t want to get out of the refreshing rain, but Yule was holding the door open waiting for me.

I’ll never forget the day I discovered rain’s mental medicinal purposes.

**

I did get a slight cold from playing in the rain, but I was right as rain by Aunt Jane’s wedding.

But at the reception, I had yet another blow.

I watched everybody (except my parents) dance on the floor. It was hard not to think about how almost a year ago I had been on that exact dance floor swaying in Darcy’s arms.

“You all right?” Darcy asked looking up from his third piece of cake.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I asked.

“You look really mad about something,” Darcy said stuffing cake in his mouth.

“It’s just hard to watch all these people dance,” I shrugged. “It’s like thirty people eating peanut butter sandwiches in your face.”

Darcy laughed at my allergy joke. He picked me up out of my wheelchair.

“Put me down!” I giggled as Darcy carried me to the dance floor.

“You’ve gotten heavier,” Darcy said.

“Its never polite to talk about a woman’s weight,” I joked. Darcy blushed.

“You know there’s a wheelchair dance instructor in North Adams,” Darcy said. “Her name is Ms. Etta. She used to teach youth group at church before Ms. Erin took over. She was hit by a car when she was in college, but she never stopped dancing. She and her husband were really good. They won the Pittsfield Dancing Globe five years ago before her husband, Bill, died.”

“How do you know all of this?” I asked as I slowly slipped out of Darcy’s arms.

“Ms. Etta’s my grandmother,” Darcy sheepishly. I dropped to the ground and Darcy picked me up.

“You call your grandmother Ms. Etta?” I asked. Darcy shrugged.

“I’m sure she would teach you how to dance,” Darcy said. “She’s dying to meet you but she’s been in and out of the hospital lately. Nothing major really. She just keeps getting sick. Flus and that kind of stuff.”

“I don’t know,” I started, “who’s going to drive us? Your mother is busy. My mother gave up driving weeks ago. My dad can’t drive with his arm in his sling…”

“I’ll drive,” Jaci butted in. “Problem solved.”

“I don’t know…,” I started.

“How hard can it be?” Darcy asked.

Famous last words.

**

“You must be Natalie,” Ms. Etta said rolling up to Darcy and I. I nodded.

“You look even prettier in real life,” Ms. Etta said. “Did Darcy tell you I’m his grandmother?”

“Yes, Mrs. Chadwick,” I said. Ms. Etta waved her hand.

“Nobody calls me Mrs. Chadwick,” Ms. Etta said. “I’ve never liked the sound of married name nor did I like to sound of my maiden name so everybody has always called me, Ms. Etta, even my own children! People have been referring to me as Ms. Etta ever since I was seven years old. Nobodies hardly ever called me Mrs.”

I nodded.

“Now, I have to know what kind of paraplegic you are, Natalie,” Ms. Etta said. “That way I know what moves you can do and can’t do.”

“I’m a considered a complete L1 paraplegic, but I have a slight break in T12. I have feeling in my waist and a little bit of movement in it too,” I said.

“Ok,” Ms. Etta said. “You have a good range of mobility. You’re entire upper body is free and moving. I’m an incomplete T12 paraplegic. I used to be able to take tiny steps but in my old age I don’t even try anymore. I’ve gained a lot of sensory feeling though and I’m thankfully for that.”

There was a little bit of awkward silence. Sometimes its hard for an incomplete paraplegic and a complete paraplegic to talk about their injuries. For the incomplete there’s great hope for them to walk again. For complete there’s almost absolutely no hope. but strangely my family hasn’t given up hope that I will one day walk again. And if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s to always have hope.

“So your sister’s wedding is the first Saturday in June?” Ms. Etta asked after a couple of awkward seconds. I nodded.

“Let’s see, it’s the third week in March so that gives us about thirteen weeks,” Ms. Etta said. “Its cutting it real close, but I think we’ll have you dancing by then.”

“So before you love struck teens start, I would like to warn you,” Ms. Etta said. “I have been teaching dance for about thirty years now and have been competing for almost fifty years and most of those fifty years I’ve spent in a wheelchair. And in my lifetime, I have seen hundreds of couples break up because of dance! I’ve taught over five hundred engaged couples and have broken up over one hundred of them. Dancing is about getting to know your partner in ways you’ve never thought possible. In freestyle dancing, which is what I teach the most, it’s all about talking to your partner without talking. I know that may seem impossible but if you stick with this, you’ll soon get to know your partners body language in ways you probably wouldn’t have considered! But just about everyone of my students, including the ones I have broken up, have seen me some time or another and have thanked me. Whether it was because I saved them from a horrible marriage or because they feel like their marriage works better because they know each other so well. Now that I have warned the two of you are you ready to start wheelchair dancing?”

Nope, and I didn’t think I’d ever be, but Darcy and I said yes not knowing how much these lessons would change us.

**

Every single thing Ms. Etta said came true.

After the first lesson, there was a whole lot of tension between us. By the third lesson, we official hated each other. By the fifth lesson, I was wondering how in the world we had made it this far.

Ms. Etta clearly sensed the new found hatred Darcy and I had for each other. She was pretty tense during the lessons too. She kept calling us love struck teens though, but we felt more hate struck if you ask me.

Our real problem was trying to learn one of the easiest moves Ms. Etta was trying to teach us. She called it the Back Step. It was really simple. Darcy would walk backwards while I rolled towards him. We got that part down on the first lesson, but the Double Back Step…now that was a challenge. Darcy would walk back and I would rolled towards him, but then he was supposed to walk towards me and I was supposed to roll backwards. Now that was hard. I never knew when Darcy was going to start walking forward and just about every time I ran over his foot.

Now I know you’re probably like “That’s all? You hate each other because you keep rolling over his foot?” No, that was not all. Darcy had his dancing faults too.

We were trying to do the Glide and Spin. That was were Darcy would take one of my hands and glide me across the room and then spin me. Well the gliding was easy, but the spinning was not. Either he spun me way too fast or he let go of me too soon and I crashed into the wall. “You’re a rat!” soon became one of my favorite new phrases. You should see the look on his face when I call him a rat!

The Shimmy was pretty hard too. That was were Darcy would take both of my hands and pull me with enough force to zigzag me and the wheelchair across the room, but Darcy was pulling me with so much force that I was pulled out of my wheelchair, even though I had a protective strap on me that was supposed to keep me from falling. Obviously it wasn’t working.

I was tired, frustrated, and really angry from being pulled out of my wheelchair for the fifth time in less than a week. And when I was pulled out of my wheelchair for the sixth time, I had had enough.

“Ok, my little love struck teenagers,” Ms. Etta started, “let’s just take a break…”

“No! I can’t do this anymore!” I cried.

“Sure, you can, Natalie, I’ll tell you what let’s be finished for the day and we can finish our lesson on Monday,” Ms. Etta suggested.

“Natalie’s right, I don’t even know why I agreed to do this stupid thing,” Darcy mumbled.

“Now, Darcy,” Ms. Etta started.

“Excuse me! But I remember your the one that suggested this stupid thing!” I shouted.

“Well, sorry if I was just trying to help you,” Darcy said.

“Trying to help me? I have a bruise on my leg from it being hit so hard on the hardwood floor!” I shouted. “Wheelchair dancing isn’t the problem. You’re the problem!”

“I’m the problem?” Darcy yelled. “No, you’re the problem! You can’t control your wheelchair!”

“How am I supposed to control my wheelchair if I don’t know what you’re supposed to do?” I screamed.

“Love struck…,” Ms. Etta started.

“Well how am I supposed to know how hard to pull you?” Darcy shouted.

“Well you’re not supposed to pull me with all your might!” I screamed.

“I quit!” Darcy shouted storming out of the room.

“What just happened?” I asked after about a minute.

“Sweetie pie, I think he just broke up with you,” Ms. Etta said gravely.

Well that sent me into a fit of tears.