About one week after I started kindergarten, I quickly realized I was not like all the other children in the class. All of these children used their right hands to color; they could climb a rope in gym class and cut their own meat at lunch. On the playground children would tease me, calling out things like, “Look, she has a hook for an arm,” and, “Here comes the tree branch girl.” At first I didn’t understand why they were taunting me in such a cruel way. I remember feeling intimated by them. I would go into the girls’ restroom and cry. One day, while I was in the middle of a crying spell, I caught my reflection in the full-length mirror wearing a short-sleeve shirt; my right arm was deformed and four inches shorter than my left.
Being born with a birth injury in the sixties meant there was nothing they could do to fix it. Don’t get me wrong—I knew my arm was deformed with very limited use, but I really did not consider myself physically challenged. At home I was just one of the kids, the baby of ten children. No one ever made a big deal about my arm. I just used other parts of my body to complete any task I attempted. Apparently it was a big deal to the rest of society.
The school district tried to send me to a school for mental retardation. My father abruptly put a halt to that. He said my arm was crippled, not my mind. I soon learned it was survival of the fittest, and I was determined to become the fittest. As young as five years old, I became a fighter, survivalist, inventor, problem solver, and a realist. Whatever was ask of me, I tried harder than anyone else to accomplish, and I succeeded. As the years passed, I became just one of the normal kids. People did not seem to pay much mind to my arm. I think it bothered me more than any of my friends. I guess I was about ten years old when I first decided cooking was my passion. I would make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, cut the crusts off, and roll them to resemble a pinwheel. I never missed a day in the kitchen with my mother. She was one of the most wonderful cooks whom I had the privilege to enjoy the fruits of her labor.