When the children are in bed after the concert, Albert decides to run away. Having just seen his family, he’s unbearably homesick and can’t stand the thought of being away from them. He gets dressed and wheels out of the hospital towards the railway station. The road climbs steeply uphill, and Albert isn’t strong enough to get the wheelchair all the way up. Tired, he rolls into the grass and falls asleep.
Albert is the only child who feels unequivocally more at home with his family than at the Golden Age. As a very young boy, it’s easy for him to feel not only that he’s physically able to get himself home, but that he’ll have no trouble returning to the life he left behind.
When he wakes up, Albert tries again and gets almost to the top, but pauses for breath without putting the breaks on. He rolls backward, swerves into the grass and topples over, crushed by the chair. He decides to rest for a minute and try again.
Despite Albert’s childish confidence, his wheelchair accident is a visceral reminder of the barriers between all the children and their pre-polio childhoods.