A friend recently asked me to list “Seven Little-Known Facts” about myself on Facebook. He and I haven’t know each other very long, so I put together a list that I hoped would be interesting to him, but most of the content wasn’t really ‘little-known’ to many other friends and my family. I thought it would be fun to put together a second list and see if I could come up with seven more things that very few people who know me would be aware of. It wasn’t easy! But here it is.
1. My early writing projects often came to bad ends. I wrote and illustrated a series of stories about a lonely cloud in second grade that my teacher praised highly to me and to my parents. She must have sincerely liked them, because she kept them. Worse was the patriotic poem I wrote in sixth grade, to be entered in a national contest. My teachers loved it, passed it around, it was even read over the intercom to the student body. In all the excitement, my teachers forgot to submit it to the contest.
2. Although, as you can tell, I was a hopeless nerd in school, I was in great demand as a sleepover guest at slumber parties because I could hypnotize people. I stared into their eyes, exerted the force of my will upon them, and when their eyes glazed over, I could ask them to do pretty much anything and they would. I have no idea if everyone I thought I hypnotized was faking it or not. I do have to say that if they were, some of them had no shame whatsoever…
3. My passion for the stories of King Arthur and his noble knights went beyond reading every version of the story I could get my hands on. When the movie “Camelot” came out, I saw it 26 times at the theater. Even though I don’t think I have seen the movie since I was a teenager, I can still remember every word of every song. And here I am in my ninth grade school yearbook photo. The t-shirt reads “Arthur is King.” I defy anyone to out-nerd this.
4. I have been a cat person as long as I’ve been a dog person. I used to enter our family cat, Tammy, in cat shows, in the “Household Pet” category. Particulars unknown, indeed.
5. My mother would not allow me to keep a pet snake, but I caught a garter snake and kept it in my closet for awhile when I was about twelve. I was faced with a dilemma when it came time to fly to St. Louis (from Kansas City, where we lived) to visit a friend. What to do with my secret snake? This being before the days of security scans, I put him in a paper bag and took him onboard with me. I sat in a row with two older ladies, and I still remember how they went absolutely still when the brown bag on my tray table suddenly tipped over of its own accord. The original “snakes on a plane.”
6. Another nerdly activity of my young teen years was writing fan letters. I wrote to anyone I admired: actors, writers, and athletes. Some wrote back. I wrote to John Travolta after the first episode of “Welcome Back Kotter” aired. I later read that he only responded to the first 50 fans who wrote to him, because the mail came in such a flood after that. But my favorite response to one of my fan letters was this charming note from Paul LeMat, who played John Milner, the super-cool guy with the awesome car in “American Graffiti.”
7. I have a love-hate relationship with water. Getting water in my face makes me feel panicky. I am a borderline adequate swimmer: ‘poor’ would probably be a more honest description. But I absolutely love swimming in the ocean, even if that mostly means floundering around happily. One of the most euphoric experiences of my life was swimming off the coast of Easter Island. My aquatically able friend, Mike, convinced me that one doesn’t need to swim well to snorkel, and introduced me to that activity off the coast of Belize. We actually went 43 miles offshore and snorkeled the Blue Hole, a stunning giant reef circle around a collapsed underwater cave system. I thought poor Mike was going to drown, laughing at my swimming, which basically approximated underwater dog paddling. But I had a wonderful time doing it.
Swimming in Crocodile Creek, Australia.