Sunday, January 20, 2013

#SampleSunday: Meet Miss Cecelia McGill

Cece McGill is the heroine of my newest novella, The Monday Night Needlework and Murder Guild. She's one of my favorite characters of all time:

II - Cece

Growing up with a doctor for a father and a mother who devoted her time to volunteering wherever she was needed, I had neither the opportunity nor the inclination to learn needlework. When I started college in Boston the word “hippie” was new to most people and it was only a few years after the famous Summer of Love. I majored in biology because my father had dreams of me following in his footsteps, but that was not to be.
Although Boston was little more than an hour commute from Pitts Crossing, I managed to convince my parents that, by sharing an apartment with three other girls, I would save commuting time and, thus, have more time to study. Maybe I would have wound up becoming a doctor if I had actually done that. However, what I did with those two hours, and quite a few more, was hang out in Cambridge or on Boston Common listening to music, talking, and smoking pot. I imagine the four decades worth of high school students I went on to teach would find that quite amusing—cranky old Miss Cecelia McGill, decked out in love beads and tie-dyed granny dresses, getting stoned out of her noodle on the swan boats in the Public Garden.
It was a time of experimentation for most of us: sexually (the less said about that, the better,) spiritually (my socially-committed, Unitarian parents endured my fits of Buddhism and Wicca,) and politically (perhaps you would enjoy hearing about my relationship with Abbie Hoffman, but that will have to wait for another day.)
Then a transformative thing happened—someone left a copy of the first Woodstock Craftsman's Manual in our apartment. The cover was bent in half from being used to roll joints but I picked it up, paged through it, and lost interest in everything else. Within days I had filled our little apartment with cords and wooden beads, and was making macramé plant hangers, bracelets, and shoulder bags. I even made a macramé hammock that I still have up in my attic somewhere. I moved from macramé to candle-making, then on to tie-dye, soap-making, and different kinds of needlework.
For awhile I was also in love—or as close to being in love as someone like me is capable of being. His name was John MacKenzie, but everyone called him Mac. He was a big, hearty, easy-going boy with a wild mop of curls that turned blond in the sunlight and a thick beard that was the color of the hay he had grown up bailing on his father's farm in New Hampshire. Mac was the first person in his family to go to college and he planned to be a veterinarian. We met in a series of science classes. In no time we were studying together, then hanging out together, then sleeping together.
It was Mac's idea for me to spend the summer in New Hampshire at a crafts commune near his father's farm. So, when spring term ended, I went home with him. That was the happiest summer of my life. I spent my days with my fellow craftsmen producing endless amounts of hippie artwork that we tried to sell at craft fairs and at roadside stands. I spent my nights with Mac. But, as I've said, the less said about that, the better.
In recent years I have noticed that there is a nostalgia among young people for that era. They buy tie-dyed clothes on eBay and Etsy, listen to the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones, and, when they find out I was an enthusiastic participant in those years, they ask endless questions. Of course, when I was teaching I had to at least pretend to be a respectable member of my community but, now that I am retired, I don't mind spinning a few yarns. They are largely borrowed from Richard Brautigan and Tom Wolfe novels because, quite frankly, there's not a lot I remember—that seems to be a common affliction among my contemporaries.

Read the rest of the story: The Monday Night Needlework and Murder Guild on Kindle or Nook.

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