“Think of it this way, God gave you so many things; beauty, intelligence, cute shape, a beautiful voice to sing, creativity to paint-shoot everything really! If he would’ve given you two arms too, you probably would’ve been a B-word. Too much for the world to handle, Pretty Girl.”
– La Shone Smith to 16 year-old Amber
People ask me all the time how I came to be so comfortable with being an amputee. Honestly, one of the first things that I mention is my family. I was raised in a family that had no forewarning that I would be born facing a physical challenge was comfortable with taking on the challenge of raising an AMputee. They have always been open-minded enough to let me explore, to help me find the resources I needed, and of course, to make a couple of jokes along the way. Though there have been times when our words may have not been the best indicators of our love. When it matters most, our actions have never fallen short. These integral moments with my family have been instrumental in solidifying the way I see myself today.
There is something beautiful in the way that we love each other.
I’ll never forget when I was five years old and came home from school crying about being bullied. My daddy sat me on his knee, wiped my tears, and told me that God made me perfectly, little arm and all. He also made sure to teach my sister, my brother, and me the “Jab-Jab-Hook“; a mean punch combo for us to give bullies a run for their money. I also remember when I decided that I wanted to start playing softball for Redan Park just like my big sister. My daddy didn’t question me once. He didn’t ask why or how. Instead he took me to buy a glove and then to the park, where together he worked with me to create a catching combo that allowed me to scoop balls from the outfield and throw it in to the bases so fast that even after years of playing people still couldn’t figure out how I could get the ball around so quickly.
But, the moment I’ll truly never forget was when I was six and played softball for the Redan Ravens. I had just started getting comfortable batting without the assistance of a batting post. The bases were loaded and I was the last batter of the game. When coach of the other team saw that I had one arm he called all of his players to the infield.
He told his players, “Come on in! It won’t take too much to stop her!”
The parents from my team were furious (Especially my Mama).
But, my daddy calmed everybody down, came over to me at the plate, got down on knees and told me, “Don’t you worry about any of them. Don’t worry about what they say or what they’re doing. You got this baby girl. You’re gonna hit this ball and run just as fast as you can.”
I did. And, we won! Before I could even make it to second base my daddy scooped me up with hugs and kisses, and the coach of the other team was in our dugout offering his apologies. Today, as a young woman, I can see clearly how my Daddy’s words of encouragement and willingness to learn just how to accomplish things with me inspired in me the mindset of an over comer. In fact, his loving work with me taught me to trust in myself undoubtedly in the midst of disparaging circumstances, and each time that I have done so, I have always proved triumphant.
There is something beautiful in the way that we uplift each other.
Since I was young, my mama has spent so much time helping me grow to be an independent, confident woman. I remember the times that my mama would look into the mirror work with me side-by-side to help me learn to acknowledge that every last bit of me is beautiful. She used to tell me to be sure to hold my head up and would be careful to make sure that I never stood in the slightest way that would hide my little arm. She would always-and still does- call me her pretty girl. She also used to leave little inspirational notes on the bathroom mirror to let me know that she, my daddy, my brother, my sister, and Jesus love me just the way I am. Now that she can text, she sends the cutest messages every day just to remind me how important, beautiful, and smart I am to her. My mama is beautiful. Physically, emotionally, and mentally she is amazing. Not because she always gets it right, or that she always has all the answers, but because no matter what she never stops trying. She is one of the strongest, most creative, funny hilarious, sensitive, sassy-Lord knows she is sassy, sweet, most resilient people I know. She’s thoughtful and kind. When it came to learning to tie my Barney shoes or cleaning up the bathroom after I painted my nails when I was two, my mama has been there to literally help me make a way. Even in the times when I am so freaking difficult, my mama never stops trying and she never for a second lets me think that I’m alone in my journey for self acceptance.
There is something beautiful in the way that we take care of each other.
Since the days of walking to the candy lady for Now and Laters and Laffy Taffys, my brother and my sister have been my biggest defenders. I honestly feel like all the times my mama made us sit in that one chair together as punishment for arguing helped us develop such a strong bond and respect for one another that we won’t stand for anyone mistreating any of us. I’m not sure if they know it or not, but I’ve seen my brother and sister go 0 to 100 real quick, especially if they feel like someone is disrespecting me about being an amputee. And while it’s nice to see them defending me, I find it even more empowering to witness how they speak to others about me facing my physical challenges. I’ve witnessed them both not only explain to children and adults that I was born like this, but also carefully make it a point to let people know that I am completely capable. Ashley and Aaron have two of the biggest and best hearts that I know. Aaron is always open and willing to listen when I need to talk and is good to call and tell me that he loves me and is proud. Ashley, or Nash as I call her, has always been there to hold for the times I crawled into her bed to cry in the middle of the night or to drop random words of wisdom that leave me thinking, really thinking about how to pursue my dreams. Together, they make me feel safe and comfortable in my most vulnerable moments. As two of the funniest people I know, they make me laugh harder and longer when I need it most. When we’re all together, whether it’s on the phone or in person, they always remind me that I am and always have been a complete, multifaceted human being.
Honestly, I think that I have one of the best families in the world. Not because we are the best at communicating our feelings, or because we don’t make mistakes, but because every day we wake up and try to love each other even more we did the night before. And, even though sometimes we might fall short, we never actually stop trying. My family has been so impactful in helping me to become the woman that I am in so many different ways, that I don’t think that they realize just how instrumental their actions have been in my individual development as an amputee. I could write a book about all of the memories that helped make me the “One Armed Bandit” I am today, and one day I just might. But for now I would just like my family, immediate and extended, to know that their actions have worked together to inspire in me such a positive sense of self that I never could have developed on my own.