Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Skinny Dip with Candice Ransom

9_23SkinnyRebelDo you like to gift wrap presents?

Yes! I’ll buy the gift wrap before I buy the present! Years ago when I was a teenag­er, Hall­mark start­ed car­ry­ing their prod­ucts in Dart Drug. I lath­ered over the Hall­mark sec­tion, spend­ing my allowance on Peanuts cards and gift tags and wrap­ping paper, yarn and fan­cy bows. My sis­ter once said that I always spent more on the wrap­ping than the actu­al gift.

Even now I buy beau­ti­ful paper in muse­um gift shops. In April I took a trip to New York. I bought so many paper goods I had to buy an extra suit­case. My favorites? Sheets of Cav­alli­ni gift wrap from the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry. I car­ried the rolled tube on the train like the Holy Grail.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

I don’t remem­ber the very first book report, but I do remem­ber writ­ing a won­der­ful book review of The Year­ling for eighth grade Eng­lish. And then, the teacher low­ered the boom. Instead of turn­ing them in, we had to give them oral­ly. I froze. At that time, I was so shy I couldn’t even answer the phone. Only a cer­tain num­ber of stu­dents read each day. Each day I wait­ed in ter­ror for my name to be called. On the fourth day, it was. I could not—simply could not—get up in front of the class. So I lied and told my teacher I hadn’t done my report, even though it was in my note­book, beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten, and I took a zero.

What book do you tell every­one to read? 

9_23DiamondWhen I was eleven, the most won­der­ful book ever fell into my hands, A Dia­mond in the Win­dow, by Jane Lang­ton. Even now, I chase every­one down and beg them to read this fan­ta­sy-mys­tery-his­tor­i­cal-fam­i­ly sto­ry lib­er­al­ly sprin­kled with Thore­au, Emer­son, and Louisa May Alcott. It changed my life. I had to be mar­ried on Valentine’s Day because of a chap­ter in the book (try explain­ing that to your hus­band-to-be dur­ing the Bliz­zard of ’79—three feet of snow on the ground, but we made it).

Ten years ago I met Jane Lang­ton and told her how much her book meant to me. I was so eager, so, I don’t know, hero-wor­ship­ful that I was not ready when she said in her kind voice, “Oh, every year peo­ple tell me the exact same thing.” The breath left my body. No! Her book only changed my life!

Well, I still tell every­one to read it, if they can get hold of a copy. It might change their life, but not the way it changed mine.

Describe your most favorite pair of paja­mas ever. 

I was five and we had just moved into a house in the coun­try (read: sticks). I had my own bed­room for the first time, and my own bed (until then, I lived in some­one else’s house and slept in a crib—that’s why I’m so short). My moth­er bought—or made, she sewed all of our clothes—a pair of Don­ald Duck paja­mas. The print was turquoise and yel­low. I loved those paja­mas beyond all rea­son. When I final­ly out­grew them, my moth­er tucked them in her bot­tom dress­er draw­er with her sewing sup­plies.

When I was in my twen­ties and on my own, my moth­er made me a twin-size quilt. Not a fan­cy quilt­ed quilt, just a nine-patch tied off. She’d used fab­ric from some of clothes she’d made me. There in the cen­ter is a piece of the Don­ald Duck paja­mas. I still have the quilt. I love it beyond all rea­son.

What do you wish you could tell your ten-year-old self? 

9_23FitnessOh, my. She was such a brave, fun­ny girl. Shy and yet adven­tur­ous. Smart but she failed math and the President’s Phys­i­cal Fit­ness tests (she was proud of walk­ing the 600, earn­ing the slow­est time in the his­to­ry of field day—over 13 min­utes). She want­ed so many things, that girl. She want­ed to be a writer and a detec­tive and maybe a vet and, secret­ly, a bal­le­ri­na even though she was stiffer than barn wood and had nev­er had a dance class in her life. She also want­ed to be an artist and she believed she could do all of those things!

Part of me wants to warn her of what’s com­ing, but a big­ger part of me wants her to stay in the dark, let her be her­self as long as pos­si­ble. I wouldn’t tell her that she won’t be able to do all the things she want­ed: the sight of blood makes her faint, she can’t stay up long enough to be a detec­tive (all those night stake-outs), and, sad­dest of all, that she won’t be able to go to art school. Or any school, real­ly, until she’s 50. No, I won’t tell her that.

I think I would tell her to remem­ber bet­ter where she lived, every lit­tle bit of it. The trees, the gar­den, the straw­ber­ry patch in June, the mar­tin house she asked her step­fa­ther to build but stayed emp­ty, the blue can­dle lights in the pic­ture win­dow at Christ­mas, the can­ning-jar smell of the base­ment, the rumbly sound of Half-Pint purring, the taste of fried squash washed down with sweet iced tea on a hot July evening, the feel of the brush as Mama worked the tan­gles from my hair.

Yes, that’s what I’d tell her. Remem­ber bet­ter, girl, because your six­ty-three-year old self will have trou­ble. And she needs the gifts of those mem­o­ries to get through the day. They don’t even have to be wrapped in fan­cy paper.

One Response to Skinny Dip with Candice Ransom

  1. David LaRochelle September 27, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    What a great inter­view, Can­dice! Thank you! I can feel that poor girl’s shy­ness, who would rather take a zero than speak in front of the class!

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