Abbys book, p.1
Abby's Book, p.1
ME, MYSELF, AND I: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ABIGAIL STEVENSON: FROM BIRTH TO BACKPACK
BED AND BLUE JUST WON’T DO
THE SHOOTING STAR
NEW PLACES, NEW FACES
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The clock radio woke me at 8:00 A.M. “You’ve heard another fab hour of solid rock and roll,” the deejay announced in a booming voice. “Now for a few words from our sponsors. Bellair’s Department Store is the one-stop shopping center for the whole family … ”
Why is it that my clock radio always wakes me with commercials instead of with some of that solid rock and roll?
I turned over, switched off the radio, and lay back, planning the day ahead. It was Saturday. I was coaching softball that morning. Maybe I’d hit the pizza parlor with Kristy at lunch. Then I had soccer practice in the afternoon. I remembered that my mother and my sister and I were having Chinese takeout for dinner and renting a couple of films. What was I forgetting? Oh, yeah. Homework. Well, that could wait until Sunday. My weekend homework probably wouldn’t take me more than an hour. Now, what was my weekend homework?
Homework! I bolted straight up, wide awake. I had a huge assignment due on Monday. I had to write a book. And I was only planning an hour for homework?! I needed a lifetime. Well, maybe not a lifetime, but I definitely needed more than two days.
I guess you’re wondering what the book is about. The book I have to write is about me — Abigail Stevenson. It’s an autobiography. Now, I bet you wonder why an eighth-grader is writing an autobiography. Frankly, I don’t know. And I don’t approve of asking kids to write the story of their own life. We should be living our lives, not writing about them. I also don’t approve of long assignments. Maybe, I thought, I should go back to sleep for a little while — like all weekend.
My sister, Anna, knocked on the door and stepped into my room. “Abby, Mom made pancakes. If you want some, you should get up.”
“It’s Saturday morning.” I groaned. “What’s the rush?”
“I have orchestra practice at nine and Mom has to work today,” Anna answered.
Anna is my twin. We’re identical twins, but not the type who do everything the same. I’m a jock. I love sports — especially soccer, softball, and running. I’m also outgoing and always cracking jokes. Anna is quieter than I am — by a lot. She’s also a musician, which I am not. Anna can play a load of instruments, including the harmonica and the piano. She’s best at the violin, which is her favorite instrument.
People used to mix Anna and me up and call us by each other’s names. But not anymore. We don’t dress alike — ever. We both have curly black hair but Anna wears her hair short and I wear mine long.
“I didn’t know Mom was going to the city today,” I told Anna.
“She’s meeting one of her writers,” Anna explained. “Come on. The pancakes will be cold.” Anna went downstairs and I got dressed.
We live in Stoneybrook, Connecticut, but our mother goes to Manhattan every day to work. She’s an executive editor at a New York publishing house. You’d think since my mother edits books I wouldn’t mind writing one. Forget it.
I walked into the kitchen just as Mom set a plate of blueberry pancakes at my place. I set a pile of papers and photos next to the plate.
“What’s all that?” my mother asked.
“Research,” I said. “For my autobiography. I thought I’d ask you a few questions during breakfast.”
My mother checked her watch. “I’m out of here in five minutes. One of my authors has a big book signing today. I’m taking her to lunch.”
“Well, I’m an author too,” I said. I pretended to be a news announcer. “Ms. Abigail Stevenson, known for her best-selling autobiography entitled … ” I hesitated. I needed a title. It came to me like a spark of genius. “ … entitled Me, Myself, and I.” I flashed a newscaster’s toothy smile at my audience. “It’s a touching book, a funny book, and best of all a short book.”
My audience of two laughed. But not for long.
“Seriously, Abby,” my mother said, “how’s the autobiography coming along? It’s due on Monday, isn’t it?”
I pointed a forkful of pancake at my notes. “I have lots of ideas,” I said. “I just have to pull them together, add a few pics, and whammo! My masterpiece is done.”
My mother turned to Anna. “You turned yours in last week.”
“Only because it was due a week earlier than Abby’s,” Anna explained.
Every eighth-grader at Stoneybrook had to write an autobiography. Which was a good enough reason for me to wish that we’d moved from Long Island to Stoneybrook when I was in ninth grade instead of eighth.
I flipped through my notes and asked Mom questions about my childhood while we ate. I was still asking her questions as she climbed into our minivan to drive to the train station.
After my mother drove away, I stood in the driveway thinking about the interesting fact she’d just told me. Though Anna is older than me by eight minutes, I took my first steps a few hours before she took hers. I wondered if that was why I became more athletic than Anna. Or did I walk independently first because I already was more athletically inclined?
Kristy Thomas came running up to me from the sidewalk. “Hi,” she said. “You ready? We’ll be late for practice. Get your glove. We better book it.”
“Book it?” I said. “I’m booking it, all right.” I held up the notebook I’d been using for my interview with my mother. “Autobiography. All weekend. I am seriously bummed.”
“Too bad,” said Kristy. She gave me a little punch on the arm. “Good luck.” She went off.
“Thanks,” I yelled. Of all my new friends, Kristy’s the one who’s most like me.
We’re both outgoing and smart. (Even though I don’t like homework — or writing books — I am pretty smart.) And we both love sports. Kristy coaches a softball team for little kids called Kristy’s Krushers. I’m her assistant coach.
There are ways Kristy and I are different too. Kristy is more organized than I am and much bossier. However, her bossiness can be a plus. You see, Kristy is the president and brains behind this great club I belong to, the Baby-sitters Club (or BSC).
Here’s another way Kristy and I are different. She comes from a huge blended family. In my family it’s just Anna, my mom, and me. Our dad died in a car accident when Anna and I were nine. I still miss him and think of him every single day. Kristy lost her dad too. Only in Kristy’s case, her father ran away.
I’m not the only BSC member who’s experienced the death of a parent. Mary Anne Spier’s mother died when Mary Anne was an infant. After Mary Anne’s mother died, her family was even smaller than mine — there was only her and her dad. That changed when Mr. Spier married his high school sweetheart and they brought their two families together. Now Mary Anne has a stepmother, a stepbrother, and a terrific stepsister, Dawn Schafer, who is an honorary member of the BSC. Right now, Dawn is living in California with her father and brother. But she comes to visit, so I’ve met her. I can see why Mary Anne and the other members of the club miss Dawn. She’s really cool.
Mary Anne is the secretary of the BSC. She keeps track of our baby-sitting jobs in the club record book and makes sure that we all write in the club notebook. Mary Anne is the perfect person for that job because she is super-neat and super-conscientious.
Our treasurer is Stacey McGill. Stacey loves math and is excellent at it. That girl knows just where to put a decimal point. She also knows how to dress.
Stacey and I have something major in common. We both suffer from annoying, chronic illnesses. (A chronic illness is one that doesn’t go away.) Stacey’s chronic illness is diabetes. She can’t eat desserts or sweets. She has to check her blood and give herself insulin injections every day.
I have allergies and asthma. I’m allergic to lots of foods, such as milk products and shellfish. I’m also allergic to most stuff that floats through the air — dog hair, dust, and pollen. The allergies and asthma are connected. They both affect my ability to breathe, especially the asthma. I use an inhaler when I feel an asthma attack coming on, but I still land in the hospital a couple of times a year. Not being able to breathe is pretty scary.
I don’t make a big deal about my illnesses. (Neither does Stacey.) I refuse to let it get me down or to keep me from doing the things I love, such as sports. I think I’ll outgrow some of my allergies and hope the asthma might just disappear too.
The vice president of the BSC is Claudia Kishi. Claudia is really cool. I love her kooky way of dressing. Yesterday, for example, she wore leopard-skin tights with a black velvet minidress to school. Her earrings were made out of fake-fur buttons. (She made them herself.) Claudia is what you’d call a theme dresser, and yesterday the theme was “jungle.”
We have our club meetings three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) in Claudia’s room, which is equipped with a private phone line — perfect for our BSC calls — and an inexhaustible supply of junk food for our personal pleasure.
The BSC has two other regular members, Mallory Pike and Jessi Ramsey. They are both sixth-graders and junior officers of the club. Mal and Jessi are best friends.
Mal loves literature and wants to write and illustrate children’s books. She can’t wait to be an eighth-grader and write her autobiography. It’ll be a snap for Mal.
Jessi is a fabulous ballet dancer. She studies ballet as seriously as my sister studies the violin, which is very seriously!
The BSC also has two associate members, Logan Bruno and Shannon Kilbourne. Associate members fill in when the BSC has more jobs than the regular members can handle. Logan and Shannon don’t have to come to the meetings all the time like the rest of us. By the way, Logan is Mary Anne’s boyfriend, and Shannon and my sister are close friends.
So that’s the BSC and my new group of friends. I still miss my friends from Long Island, where I lived before moving here. Except for having to write the story of my life, I love living in Stoneybrook, Connecticut.
Anna appeared beside me on the driveway. “Penny for your thoughts,” she said.
“I’ll tell you for a buck fifty,” I said with a grin.
“I’m saving my money to buy your book,” she quipped.
“I guess I have to write it if I’m going to make the best-seller list.”
“I guess you have to write it if you’re going to pass English,” Anna pointed out.
Anna went to orchestra practice and I went to my room. It was time to work on my autobiography. It was a story that no one could write but me, myself, and I.
“I was so big with the two of you,” my mother told me, “that I couldn’t even think of unpacking those boxes. Since you weren’t due for a month, your father and I thought there would be plenty of time for him to settle us in the new place when he came back from his trip. So there I sat on October fifteenth — big as a house in the middle of this mess — trying to imagine what it would be like to have identical baby girls. That’s when I realized you were going to be born a lot sooner than we thought.”
Mom phoned our dad at his environmental engineering meeting in Chicago. He left the meeting immediately to catch the first flight back to New York. Next, Mom called her doctor and described how she felt. The doctor told her to have someone drive her to the hospital right away. Since Mom didn’t know any of her neighbors yet, she called a car service.
The guy who drove her was pretty nervous. “You think you’re going to have that baby in the car, ma’am?” he asked.
“Babies,” Mom said, correcting him. “I’m having twins.” The poor man almost drove onto the lawn when he heard that!
Mom didn’t have us in the car, though. And our dad walked into the delivery room just as Anna was being born.
Eight minutes later I popped into the world.
“Some people don’t think newborns are cute,” my father used to say. “But you girls were beautiful from the get-go.”
Mom says that when she came home from the hospital with Anna and me, the whole apartment was set up. Dad had unpacked everything and put it away. And the nursery was perfectly furnished and decorated. Dad had bought and put up the balloon-patterned curtains Mom had admired in the store, but that they’d put off buying. He had also hung two fish mobiles over our new cribs.
“On top of everything else he did,” she said, “he surprised me with a rocking chair for your room.”
That’s the kind of man my dad was. Thoughtful and generous.
I asked Mom if it was hard to raise two babies at the same time. “It was difficult,” she said. “But after a few months, you entertained one another. If one of you was fussing, I’d put her in the crib with the other one, and the fussy baby would quiet down. That was a big help.”
One of my first memories is of thinking I was looking at Anna when I was actually seeing myself in the mirror. It took me a long time to tell the difference between my sister and my own reflection.
Another early memory I have is being with my dad and Anna at a playground. Anna and I were playing on the slide. Dad was standing at the bottom to catch us. I’d just slid down and was waiting with him at the bottom of the slide for Anna. Suddenly a bully at the top of the slide pushed past Anna and she tumbled to the ground.
Dad ran to her. I crumbled where I stood and started crying. I thought I’d been hurt too. Dad had two crying kids to deal with. One really hurt (Anna sprained her ankle) and the other one thinking she was hurt.
He had to carry both of us home. I remember my ankle truly hurting, and I insisted on having an Ace bandage just like Anna’s.
Because Anna and I mostly played at home with one another, we didn’t know for the first few years of our lives that being an identical twin was unusual.
When we were three years old, Mom and Dad decided that we should learn to play with other kids. So, after our third birthday, they enrolled us in a pre-school.
While Anna was meeting the teacher, I checked out the playroom for twins. But I couldn’t find any pairs of identical kids other than Anna and me.
My mother called to me. I was in the block corner. I could see her over the top of the block pile, but my sister was blocked (get it?) from my view. I panicked. Was this a place where half of you — your twin — disappeared?
I started screaming, and my mother and Anna came running to me. Because I was crying, Anna started crying too. Only Anna and I understood what had upset me. And at that age we weren’t very good at explaining things to other people.
You see, Anna and I had developed our own private language for communicating between ourselves. Because we understood one another so well, we didn’t bother to learn to speak English as quickly as most kids do. I’ve heard this happens a lot with twins. I can’t remember any of the words of our secret language now. Neither can Anna.
It was because of our language that our parents decided to send us to pre-school. And sure enough, it worked. There were lots of interesting things to do there, and plenty of kids we wanted to talk to. We learned to speak English very quickly.
Our teacher, Ms. Randolph, loved having identical twins in her class. “You girls are so cute,” she used to say. She didn’t even mind that she could barely tell us apart.
Even though we dressed alike, Anna and I were already interested in different activities. Anna liked musical instruments and I always begged to play outdoors on the jungle gym.
By the end of each day, Ms. Randolph had an easier time telling us apart. I was the dirty twin and Anna was the one in the corner playing with the plastic guitar.
Here’s one of the things I didn’t like about being twins. People stare at you. Even now, when Anna and I dress differently and have different hair styles, strangers often stare when they see the two of us together. They’ll say something brilliant like, “You two are twins, aren’t you?”
When we were very little, perfect strangers would talk to us. They’d say we were adorable and ask our parents, “However do you tell them apart?”
Most of the time Anna and I hated it when someone made a big deal out of our twin-ness. Anna would duck her head and not look at the person. But I’d stare right back. Sometimes I’d make a silly face. If the person said “And what’s your name?” I’d answer for both of us.
Sometimes I’d reverse us and say, “I’m Anna and she’s Abby.” My dad would wink at me to let me know that he knew who was who. After the person left, we’d laugh about our joke.
* * *
One day, when we were five years old, we were at the mall with our mother when we noticed another set of identically dressed twins walking across the center court, carrying identical shopping bags. They were women about the age of our grandmothers. When the twins spotted us, they hurried over to us.
“Well, well,” one of them said.
“Look at these girls,” said the other. Their voices and expressions were identical too.
“I’m Jan Sanders,” said one.
“I’m Jean Sanders,” said the other.
My mother introduced us. Even though I wasn’t usually shy, for some reason I felt shy in front of the Sanders twins.
“Do you always dress alike?” my mother asked them.
“My, yes,” answered both twins with a laugh.
They held up their identical shopping bags. “Sweaters,” said Jan.
“We live in identical houses next door to one another,” said Jean. Or was it Jan? I’d already lost track of which was which.