Updated: Mar 22
As promised, here is another excerpt from my book FROM CHEMO TO THROTTLE which I am excited to share, is in transit from the printer!! I hope that you enjoy what follows. Please do not hesitate to share your comments!
THE SCHOOL YEARS
In the early days of Kindergarten, we questioned and accepted everything without too much of a fuss. Kids would ask me questions like “why is your arm like that?” or “hey kid, what’s wrong with you?”. I had my response down at a very young age... “I was born this way”. That was that. There were times when some would point at me and laugh, however, even at this young age it motivated me to “show them what I could do”. We were young kids and easily distracted. What did we know? We were all learning and developing. My limb difference didn’t seem to matter once my classmates got to know me.
In addition to learning how to read, write and do math, we had art and music. As I already had a great foundation in music and art thanks to my parents and sister, I jumped at any opportunity to do anything artistic. I loved it when my Kindergarten teacher would play the piano, and I enjoyed singing, as long as it was with my classmates - never solo!
I loved Halloween from the first time it was introduced to me. Make-believe for a little girl with a vivid imagination was the best and allowed me to combine my love of art and creativity. My mom tried, unsuccessfully to have me dress up as a Princess. I was more inclined to be Batman (not Batgirl - don’t even think of calling me Batgirl!), even though my mask was made of black felt and my cape was a towel pinned around my neck. I would dress up as Batman year-round and once went outside at the same time as Lornie, the neighbour’s son who lived across the street. Lornie was several years older than me, and my mom would often tell the story of how he pointed at me, speechless from across the road, and how I, at five years of age told him off and went about my business of being Batman.
There were 2 classrooms for Kindergarten. Ours and another located immediately beside it. For Halloween, we made masks out of paper bags using safety scissors and crayons. The teacher helped us cut holes for our eyes. We all put our disguises on over our heads and were escorted into the other classroom to show off our unique designs. I remember some kids saying “that’s Angela” as I walked by and at the time I couldn’t understand how they knew it was me!
It was only once we returned to our classroom, that it dawned on me that it was because of my right arm and hand. I remember feeling embarrassed and flushed because I was the only kid who had been identified, or so it seemed. I was angry and hated the fact that I had a limb difference. I didn’t want it to define me or make me more noticeable. As an adult, it actually helped people who hadn’t seen me in a while to remember who I was. “Oh, you played guitar in that AC/DC tribute band”….. but more on that later.
By the time I had joined the school band in Grade 7, it was 1975 and I had developed a love of rock music. My favourite bands were Led Zeppelin, KISS, Judas Priest, Queen and Deep Purple. What was it about this music which embraced me? It was, quite simply, the guitar riffs. My favourite band members were always the lead guitarists, with the exception of KISS. How could one not like Gene Simmons? The demon look, the blood and breathing fire? I was mostly into hard rock and later heavy metal, although I did try to like what some of my friends listened to. Despite trying, bands like Supertramp, the Eagles, Emerson Lake and Palmer and YES, although popular, just didn’t do anything for me.. and disco - don’t even ask!
Remember my mischievous side? In Grade 9 at the age of fourteen, I once asked my history teacher, Mr. DesRochers, if I could wear makeup to class. He seemed a bit confused as to
why I would ask such a question, as many young girls were doing so at the time. Never me. He responded with a “yes” and off I went to the girl’s washroom to apply KISS makeup - Gene Simmons to be exact. As I sat in my history class that afternoon, in all my Gene Simmons get-up glory, I would stick out my tongue just like him whenever Mr. DesRochers would look at me.
I did this because there was a KISS photo contest in a teen magazine. My mom was going to take me to the mall to get my photo taken so that I could send in an entry. Class ended a bit early that day because I was such a distraction, and I was a hero to a few of my classmates.
At this time of my life, I had quite a few pen pals. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, we actually wrote letters by hand, using pens or pencils, and mailed them to people in other parts of the world. I had acquired the contacts after submitting my name, address and interests to “Rock Scene”, a magazine that covered news and reviews of all things related to rock music. Way before social media, this was the only way to connect with others outside of your immediate neighbourhood.
Unfortunately, I lost touch with all of them as the years passed. However, there was one person who lived in Australia, who introduced me to a band that would change my life from that point forward. AC/DC. Nobody that I knew had ever heard of this band in the late seventies. I certainly hadn’t.
What was it about AC/DC that attracted me to them? So much so that they knocked Led Zeppelin off the pedestal, which I had put them on for several years. By this time Led Zeppelin’s music was getting softer. Their album “In Through The Out Door” was good, but they had lost their hard edge. They seemed to have abandoned their rock and roll image for baggy colourful shirts and pleated pants. This could not be! Whereas the first AC/DC album that I heard was “Powerage” from 1978. It was raw, featured amazing guitar riffs and the most powerful high-energy music that I had ever heard. Crank it up loud and how could one not like AC/DC?
Learning about Angus Young and his bandmates would play a big part in my life. How? The band and their “Thunder from Down Under” sound would help me demonstrate what could be achieved with grit and determination, and was the beginning of my sharing a message - “don’t judge others based on their appearance”…. But more on that in a later chapter.
As I got deeper into music and playing guitar, I began to gain more confidence in myself and took a different approach when I felt that was being looked at. I would hold my arm up and say “why don’t you take a picture?”, which is something that you might catch me doing to this day if I’m so inclined.
STAY TUNED..... MORE TO FOLLOW!!!!
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Until next time, please be safe and keep well!
Neither 1 Hand Nor Breast Cancer Can Stop The Wheels From Rolling