The Sky's the Limit
Since then she has done almost everything else. Now 30, living in Denver and known as Lucy Deakins Arnold, she lists boatbuilder, emergency medical technician, firefighter, paralegal and mother—to daughter Mason, 20 months—on her CV. "It's her nature," says sister Catherine, 25. "She gets into something and then goes on to the next thing. She's always ready for something new."
Her eclecticism doesn't bother her English-professor parents. Roger, 67, who recently retired from New York University and is planning to bicycle cross-country, and Alice, 64, who teaches at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., and took a solo trip around the world at 20, are "very open to doing things that are going to broaden your life," says Arnold. So are her siblings: Ned, 23, fights forest fires with the national service organization AmeriCorps in Denver, while Catherine acted in local plays before becoming a photo researcher for YM.
Arnold's adventurousness was the first thing that impressed J.J., now her husband, when they began dating in 1998. "She had so many life experiences," says the 30-year-old painter and sculptor, "and I immediately admired that. Besides, she's pretty, bubbly and intelligent."
Actor Fred Savage, who played Arnold's younger brother in The Boy Who Could Fly, detected similar qualities during their 1985 shoot. "She was very smart and articulate," says Savage. "She had this sophisticated aura that I really liked."
The Manhattan-bred Arnold had begun her career just three years earlier, as a shy sixth-grader playing a murderous schoolgirl as part of a local theater festival. Says Alice: "Her father and I wondered, 'Can this quiet girl have this kind of public role?' " The answer was yes. Arnold soon snagged an agent and a 1983 stint on As the World Turns. She left the soap the following year when she was cast in The Boy Who Could Fly.
Arnold followed up that film's success with supporting roles in the drama Little Nikita, opposite River Phoenix, and the John Candy comedy The Great Outdoors but resisted Hollywood's social scene. "We saw so many people in that world who had no place firm to put their feet," says her mother. "I've always been proud that Lucy didn't get caught up in that."
Instead Arnold headed for Harvard in 1988. After taking time off for occasional acting jobs and a backpacking trip across Europe, she graduated in 1994 with a degree in comparative religion. A year later she quit acting and moved to Washington, D.C., with her then boyfriend, but they split in 1996 when he opted to spend a year in Italy. "In his words, we mutually broke up," she says. "In my words, he dumped me."
Heartbroken, Arnold set out for the West Coast. She promptly fell in love again, this time with her mother's hometown of Port Townsend, Wash. She stayed there and enrolled in boatbuilding school, which had been her dream since she spent a summer constructing theater sets in college. She also began working as an EMT (she had taken a course while in D.C.) and soon signed up for the town's Fire Academy. Although the regimen was tough—after carrying 60 lbs. of equipment on her 100-lb. frame she "went home and cried every night," she says—Arnold persevered, and became a wildland firefighter for the National Forest Service in 1998.
Arnold fell for J.J., the visiting nephew of her firefighter housemates, that same year. In 1999 she moved to Denver, where J.J. lived, landed a job as a paralegal ("It never hurts to have Harvard on your résumé," she says) and married him.
Today the full-time mom is pondering an acting encore as the family prepares to relocate to New York City in January so J.J. can try his luck on the art scene. But if showbiz doesn't want her, she won't take it personally. "I've never been upset about not getting a part," she says. "It leaves me open to all the things I still can do."
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