So, Melissa wants to know 6 things about me, huh?
1. I can recite the entire alphabet backwards, just as easily as I can forward. Z, Y, X, W, V, U, T, S, R, Q, P, O, N, M, L, K, J, I, H, G, F, E, D, C, B, A. (Although, it turns out, typing it can be tricky!) This is a leftover from long, family drives when I was little and my mother would throw back questions over the seat to keep my sister and me entertained. It’s come in remarkably handy, too, over the years, because it makes alphabetizing things that much easier. Who knew? But, meanwhile, it’s about my only party trick.
2. I was an identical twin. My twin and I were due, in fact, on December 29th, but we arrived seven weeks early in 1966, back when premature-baby care was still new, and my twin didn’t make it. Actually, I was a complete surprise to everyone–no one knew my mother was having twins. The doctor could only hear one heartbeat and there were no ultrasounds, so until I, the second one born, actually showed my face, they had no idea I was coming. I’ve always rather liked the idea that I was TRULY a surprise baby … not too many people can keep that kind of secret from their moms for that long!
3. Most of my hobbies are ones which were shaped by my childhood reading. Louisa May Alcott would be so proud of me. I read. I sew. I bake. I knit. I spin. I cook. I quilt. I embroider. I clean. I write. She so extolled the virtues of being a lady, and knowing how to keep house, that the lessons stuck … making me one of the very few people I know who’s been baking bread since well before the “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes” wave took off.
4. I look like my dog and love that. I mean, seriously. First, he’s gorgeous, with chocolate-brown curls that match mine. (My curls are natural, though the color gets a little chemical help these days.) But, second, we were so obviously meant for each other. My name, as you know, is Boyken, and Chappy is a Boykin Spaniel. It’s a breed most people haven’t heard of, and is the State Dog of South Carolina, where the breed originated. (Bred by a man named Whit Boykin.) So, I have a dog who not only has my name (more or less), but so clearly is meant to be my little boy, because we look alike, too. You can’t argue with fate, you know? (Oh, and credit to my friend Liz for this picture, taken in her living room a couple years ago.)
5. This may not be a surprise, but Martha’s Vineyard is one of my very favorite places in the world. My grandmother grew up there, my mother spent all her summers growing up there. My dog’s name is Chappaquiddick. We call our house “Martha’s Vineyard South” because it’s got so many odds and ends and knicknacks and decorations from the island. And it inspired one of my favorite ghost stories. The house that my great-grandmother lived and died in is now a restaurant, and the one and only time Mom and I ate there, we sat outside on the patio on a beautiful, still May night … and our candle wouldn’t stay lit. The waitress kept relighting it. She tried giving us other, well-behaved candles from other tables. She watched us to see if we were blowing it out ourselves. But, no. As still as the air was, OUR candle–and no other–kept going out. The only explanation we can come up with is that it was “The Grandmothers” making mischief, making sure we knew that they knew we were there at great-grandma’s house. Especially when you consider that, an hour or so later, after supper, when we walked back past the restaurant, the candle on our table was lit and steady. (Not to mention the only known “photo” of me and my twin.)
6. I just love gray flannel.There’s something about the natural, gray wool that I love–though I think I owe some of that to JRR Tolkien and other fantasy authors (like Susan Dexter.) In fact, I wore a gray, wool cloak during my college years, whenever it got cold. I have to say, really, that this is the warmest winter garment I’ve ever had. Because your arms and hands are under the cloak, the body warmth helps keep them warm, and for walking across a cold campus on a frosty day, well . . . really warm. I carried my books in a messenger bag at the time, too (decades before my time) . . . even though carrying backpacks casually slung over one shoulder was THE way to carry school supplies at the time . Anyway, the cloak kept my bag of books from getting wet, too. And on warmer days, it was easy to toss one or both sides back over my shoulder. I loved this cloak. About the only thing it wasn’t good for was shoveling snow or cleaning off my car . . . I’m remarkably proud of the fact that this has held up so well. I made it myself, and it still looks good … it’s even machine washable AND has a hood. I pull it out about once a winter these days, for old time’s sake.