When I was 8, I wanted to grow up to be a nun.
I had done very thorough research on this career path and had decided that since nuns did a lot of singing in the hills, rode bicycles, and had picnics with lovable Austrian children, it was definitely the career for me.
But my dad said we weren’t Catholic (which was apparently against the rules if you wanted to be a nun — bummer!) and so I turned my career attention to something infinitely more sensible:
I would be a detective with a cool sports car and a bouncy ponytail.
This may have had something to do with spending many days after school pretending that I was one of Charlie’s Angels or intrepid girl detective, Nancy Drew. My aunt had loaned me her large Nancy Drew book collection which I read under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping at night.
In defence of my disobedience, our parents put my sister and I to bed at 7:30.
Yep, 7:30. Until we were about 13.
This is why I need 12 hours of sleep to function, now. Which, of course, I can never get, even though I go to bed practically immediately after supper. But, I don’t drink coffee and I almost never get 12 hours of sleep.
So, excuse me if I seem a little dazed and confused.
Anyway, (YAWN), I used to I read with my face squished up against the pages of each Nancy Drew mystery, so I could try to see the words with my curtains closed and the covers over my head. Inevitably, I ended up needing glasses at the ripe old age of seven.
And, then I looked a lot more like Anne Sullivan than Nancy Drew, but that’s another story.
Here are some of the reasons (YAWN again) I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I grew up:
1) She had a blue, roadster convertible. I believe it matched her eyes. Obviously, every independent woman needs a car that accessorizes her best features.
2) She had “titian” hair. I knew what that meant because the author, Carolyn Keene, was kind enough to tell me that it was a vintage term that denoted reddish-blond. However, it was a word I had read, but never heard spoken. I remember wishing that my boring sandy-blond head would turn a lovely shade of “tie-teean”, with all my heart.
3) Nancy had a “kindly housekeeper” named Hannah Gruen. I always wanted a kindly housekeeper, like Hannah or, if she was unavailable, then Alice, from the Brady Bunch (who seemed, somehow, slightly scarier to timid me).
4) She had a boyfriend named Ned Nickerson. At 8 years old, I didn’t give two hoots about the boyfriend but, I was already a pushover for some good alliteration.
Now that I’m older and (gulp) wiser, I have lots of reasons I’m glad I’m not Nancy Drew:
1) I have a Fiat 500 with a squishy-back roof (um…I don’t know the official name for this so I came up with something technical). Way-y-y-y cuter and more interesting than a blue convertible. Maybe I’ll paint it turquoise to match my eyes (I’m pretty sure that if I lean right up against the car, my eyes look turquoise…yes, indeedy).
2) I now have brown, not “titian” or “tie-teean” hair. It might not be as interesting but I was able to pronounce it correctly, even before I heard the word spoken. Although, to be fair to “titian”, I also pronounced “nonchalant” as “non-kallent” until I was about 14 and heard somebody say it. I was an “A” student…honest.
3) I don’t have a kindly housekeeper but I have a kindly house husband. He won’t deign to respond if I call him Hannah and he definitely won’t wear a cute vintage apron, but that’s okay. His banana bread makes me forgive anything. There was never a peep about Hannah Gruen’s banana bread in all the Nancy Drew books. Kindly only goes so far, I guess. Poor Nancy.
4) Practical Man’s name doesn’t alliterate but it kind of rhymes with Darth Vader. Even I know that Star Wars trumps Nancy Drew. Every. Day. Of. The. Week.
Despite my Nancy Drew adoration, I actually only owned three books of my own so after I returned my aunt’s books to her, I was left with:
#1 – The Secret of the Old Clock
#14 – The Whispering Statue
#32 – The Scarlet Slipper Mystery
I practiced my detective skills–like developing spy codes and writing backwards–for hours, in case I was ever pressed to write a secret telegram or message. I can still write backwards almost as quickly as I can write forwards. Call me if you can think of any useful application for this skill or if you live, trapped, in an alternate world behind a mirror.
You can probably tell, what with my squishy-back-roofed car and my brown hair and my writing backwards, that I would be a good stand-in for Nancy Drew, if she ever wanted to take a weekend mini-break or a sabbatical (with or without her “keen” friends George and Bess). My mysteries could be:
#1 – The Tupperware Mystery
# 14 – The Case of the Backwoods Boler
# 32 – The Secret of the Frightened Fiat.
This weekend, I made progress on (re) building my Nancy Drew collection. I found #3 – the Bungalow Mystery, copyright 1960 at a garage sale for the bargain price of 50 cents.
I now have exactly 10 Nancy Drew books (not all sequential) in my desired 1959-1970 vintage editions. I saw a whole collection at an antique shop last weekend too, for $5/book, but that’s no good, when they’re just all sitting right there in front of me, now is it?
So, now, I’m all grown up (at least in theory) and I didn’t become a nun or a girl detective in the end. Honestly, who can get to bed by 7:30 (YAWN) and cope with any of those jobs? But, I still like to play the “what will I be when I grow up?” game.
I am a career counsellor, after all.
This week, I picture myself as the Bionic Woman. The Bionic Woman can bah-bah-bah-bah-bah run-in-slow-motion bah-bah-bah-bah-bah towards her next vintage treasure and beat everyone to the bargoons. How fun would that be?
But, I still love you, Nancy Drew. See you in the morning. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.