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Laughter is the Best Medicine

For anyone who’s known me for about 5 minutes, you know I love to laugh. Funny stories, sarcasm, hilarious TV shows (The Office is my jam), practical jokes, you name it: I love em.’ Given that my last few blog posts have been on heavier subjects, I decided to lighten the mood a bit and share some of the funny stories that will inevitably happen any time you’re dealing with a girl who’s down one limb and loves to make situations as awkward as possible. Some call it a curse, I call it a gift…

Where, oh where to begin. I guess the hilarious encounters began before I even knew how to talk. When I was a baby, my mom would put me in long dresses to avoid some very awkward stares from the general public. That worked just fine until someone tried tickling my prosthetic foot to get me to laugh while I sat in the grocery store shopping cart. My mom tried to awkwardly explain that I just wasn’t very ticklish while I looked in the other direction, completely uninterested and totally unaware that someone was touching my fake foot.

Once I was old enough to speak for myself and walk with confidence, I wore a cosmetic cover over the leg, causing some people not to realize that I was actually missing an entire leg. Took full advantage of that fact EVERY time my older sisters had friends over (especially when I knew it was a boy crush). I took it upon myself to pick up my prosthesis while it was still attached to my body, twist it all the way around so my foot was facing completely upward, and hop confidently into whatever room they were hanging out in, just like any respectable, annoying little sister would. And yes, I freaked many of them out. And no, some of them did not come back to our house. And yes, my sisters were always annoyed. And no, that never stopped me from doing it again anyway.

Rest assured, these encounters didn’t stop the older I got. If anything, I ramped it up a bit. In fifth grade I had a social studies teacher named Mr. Weidner (shout out to any Boiling Springs, PA people reading this - we all know how much we loved his class and his “Amsterdam” song). He loved to pick on me and crack jokes about me having a “leg up” on life. So how did I respond? Naturally I took one of my old prosthetic legs that I had outgrown, dressed it up with jeans and a shoe, and placed it on his desk chair for him to find the next time he decided to take a seat. I don’t wanna brag or go as far as saying that this idea made me a school celebrity, but it DID make the yearbook that year, soooo…I’ll be signing autographs upon special request, thank you.

I have quite a few encounters that I didn’t think twice about at the time. Looking back, though, those memories make me face palm at my lack of social awareness. Like in 4th grade when I started taking saxophone lessons. Imagine a short, pre-middle-schooler with one leg who did not have any upper body strength. Now imagine that same girl carrying an alto saxophone through the school hallway, huffing and puffing her way to band class (I’ve always been cool). Sounds like it may be a disaster? Well, my mother thought so too. She very kindly mentioned to the school’s front office staff that I was struggle-busing. The solution? Give me something to cart the saxophone around in. More specifically, give me a bright red wagon.

Yep, that’s right. I made my memorable mark that school year by dragging around a siren-red wagon with my saxophone in it so I could make band class on time. Squeaky wheels and everything - you could hear me coming from a mile away. I guess this was still a better alternative to trying to haul an instrument around that was basically half of my bodyweight. Eventually all the boys in band class realized they could get in on it by offering to pull the wagon for me if I let them put their instruments in too. We all have our own ways of making friends.

I’ve tried a lot of different types of prosthesis’ as I’ve grown over the years. Along with that comes lots of trial and error, good and bad. There was the leg that repeatedly gave out from under me, causing me to fall. I got REALLY good at catching myself. One time though, I wasn’t so lucky and I fell in mid-conversation with a friend at my locker at the end of the day. One moment we were talking, and the next: poof - I was on the ground. I was so embarrassed, it was all I could do to say, “Jake, you know what would make me feel better? You pretending like your leg just gave out so you also fall.” I think that’s a fair request. (Actually not at all, but he was a good sport regardless.) The next thing I know, Jake was throwing his books everywhere and dramatically falling to the ground in apparent distress. We may have gotten a lot of strange looks from the hallway full of people, but I like to think it was worth it.

And you gotta’ love the prosthesis that I plugged into a wall at night to charge. When the charge gave out, the leg would start to vibrate to warn me that I needed to plug it back in. That’s all good until you’re sitting at your desk at your brand new job while your leg keeps vibrating in the otherwise silent room. By about the 10th “ring,” my boss looked at me and said “You can answer that if you need to,” to which my only response could be, “ahem, my cell phone is on silent. That’s just my leg.” And yes, it was my first day on the job.

As a general rule, if you wanna see a show, just follow me somewhere where I need to swim. Why? Because the prosthesis can’t be completely submerged under water, so I have to take it off. That fact combined with my natural knack for awkward encounters usually creates an interesting scenario. One time when I was still relatively young, my siblings’ took me to our town’s public pool. Now when my mom came along to these events, she always made sure to cover my prosthesis discreetly while I swam. My sisters, on the other hand, didn’t think twice about it. So on that trip, not only did I have one little girl trailing me around asking me if I was a mermaid, but my prosthesis was also lying about on the beach towels. While one of my sisters was sun-tanning, she noticed two poor little boys walk by and see the leg. One of them whispered in awe and fear to the other, “That’s a LEG. Let’s get out of here!” Oops.

One of my absolute favorite stories happened my sophomore year in high school on my family’s cruise vacation. We decided to all go snorkeling on beach day. Obviously, as a high school girl who’s already insecure about her body, the idea of taking my leg off in front of a beach full of strangers didn’t exactly thrill me. My family, always thoughtful, quietly and patiently gathered around me in a circle at the water’s edge while I discreetly took my leg off. I handed it to my brother and said, “Matt, can you please take this back to the towels?”

And he did. Like the sweet brother he is. But NOT before raising it above his head and yelling “D*** SHARKS!” The whole beach turned to stare, and I was mortified. But I was also crying so hard from laughing hysterically that it didn’t even matter. My entire family made quite the scene that day - we snorkeled and laughed the whole time…I guess you could say humor is a family trait.

Believe it or not, this is just a handful of funny memories I have from growing up with one leg. I hope at least one of the them made you laugh or crack a smile. I like to reminisce about these stories (while thinking of the next practical joke I can play on some poor soul) because sometimes we just take life and ourselves too seriously. I’m all about self-improvement and awareness, figuring out life plans, dreams, goals… all that stuff. But good grief, in the midst of it all, let’s remember to just take a step back to enjoy the little moments: the good, the bad, and the hilarious. When we’re hyper-focused, sometimes we can miss out on a lot of wonderful memories that are meant for nothing else but to bring a smile to our face. If you find yourself unable to laugh at yourself, maybe consider adjusting your perspective a little bit. I’ve found that most people in life aren’t out to make fun of you. Most times people just want to experience life together rather than apart, and if that means laughing at yourself once in a while, than embrace it and laugh away. Life is much more fun that way.