A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out my daughter’s room. I’ve been doing this little by little over the past few years. Her full-size bed and dresser, which she took with her when she moved out, has been replaced with a comfy day bed, complete with soft, cheery pillows and linens. Her closets no longer contain the memories of proms and team sports, but instead house random blankets, luggage and old photo albums. It took many years to make this transition. She graduated high school in 2009! But there was something comforting about knowing I could open those closet doors at any time and see her high school memories made manifest. I could touch her prom queen sash or read her old plaques and trophies. At a certain point, I had to let the “stuff” go and simply hold onto the memories.
Recently I was going through all the books in her bookcase. It’s a motley collection of children’s literature, Harry Potter, “recommended reading” from high school English class and even the Twilight books. There are certain children’s books I don’t want to part with: Miss Rumphius, Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, among others. There are Judy Blume books as well. Although it makes me a bit sad, I’m ok with parting with these. On the bottom shelf are several hard copy Nancy Drew books—many of which my daughter never read. When I was in third grade, my Nana (my paternal grandmother) bought me the entire set—beautifully bound, hard-cover books, filled with stories that kept me enthralled for hours at a time.
As I started packing up the books, running my fingers over the bright yellow spines, some of my favorite titles jumped out at me: The Hidden Staircase, The Secret of Shadow Ranch… sigh. I doubt there are many girls (if any) reading Nancy Drew now. I’m guessing she would be considered majorly un-cool, blissfully unaware of smart phones and twitter feeds. Although those things would have really helped her in her sleuthing. But alas, Nancy relied on her wits! I continue to pack up the books. I heard from many “you should sell them—you’ll get money for those.” But I don’t want money. I simply want just one girl—any girl from anywhere in the world to have the chance to read these stories. Maybe the stories could transcend time and light a spark in a little girl the way it did for me
My mind started to wander. After I finished third grade, my Mom bought a house in a quaint town in Massachusetts. Per usual, my sister and I were spending the summer in Long Island with our Dad. When we received the news that we would be moving from Rhode Island to Massachusetts, we were nervous, but excited. “They have horses across the street!” I remember my Mom saying excitedly during our weekly phone call. She had me at “horses.” I imagined all of the new friends I would have. It all sounded pretty good to me.
Fast forward to September; there I sat in my new 4th grade classroom. The school system was trying something new that year, where some of the fourth-grade students would move among 3 different classrooms throughout the day with 3 different teachers. They called it the “Unit Cluster.” I felt very lucky to be a part of it. We all felt very grown up—like the big kids who had multiple classes and teachers. The other fourth grade students were in a different building and had a traditional 4th grade classroom. After school, all the 4th graders were on the same buses, where we compared notes and argued over who had the better set up. The Unit Cluster kids bragged that, at recess, we had a communal garden, learned about butterflies, and other “way more fun things” than the “regular” kids had. I was fairly convinced that the kids not in Unit Cluster were jealous.
Being shy and introverted, it would often take me a little while to make friends. That was not the case in 4th grade. Much to my surprise, kids were fighting for my attention. It was an odd experience, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Soon I had a fairly large group of friends. Come to think of it, most of us got along really well in “the cluster.” But I had one good friend in particular who I’ll call Linda. Linda liked Nancy Drew almost as much as I did. At recess we would “play Nancy Drew.” Somehow, I convinced her to let me be Nancy… EVERY time. She played George, Nancy’s best friend. Every day at the recess bell, we’d run outside and start on whatever mystery we were working on. A few other girls wanted to play but we’d usually tell them no. Once in a while we’d throw out a bone and “let” someone play Nancy’s other friend, “Bess.” Why our classmates put up with us, I’ll never know.
A noise outside snapped me back to present time and I continued to carefully pack my beloved Nancy Drew books. I thought about some of the lessons she taught me. Be independent. Be a good friend. Trust your instincts. Be honest. Be of service whenever you can. Find a man (or woman) who supports your dreams. Value your friends. Stay curious. Always keep a sweater in the car—you never know when you’ll need to hide behind the nearest shrub.