Discovering Nancy Drew
Discovering Nancy Drew
by William Land
One summer (1970) my parents had returned home from a visit with family in Southern Ontario. I was eleven years-old. My mother had purchased two series books for me as a gift: one Bobbsey Twins title (a series I was currently reading) and a Hardy Boys book (an unfamiliar series). An older cousin, Beverly O’Brien, had given my mother several worn girls’ series books for me. I think there were six or eight books in that bundle; I only recall two titles specifically. They were The Scarlet Slipper Mystery, (Nancy Drew, ©1954) by Carolyn Keene, and The Mystery of the Phantom, (Robin Kane, ©1966) by Eileen Hill. I can only assume that I wasn’t too interested in the other books; otherwise, I would have remembered them clearly.
On another day that same summer, my mother sent me to my bedroom as a punishment for some misdeed of which, at the time of this writing, I can’t recall. No doubt I was sobbing, pondering bitterly on this injustice, and feeling hard done by a parent who did not agree that life would be better for everyone in the family if my needs and desires were first.
After I dried tears, I knew it was too soon to ask to be released so I looked at the bookcase and found the not yet read novels from Beverly. I thought the much-loved copy (read battered) of a Nancy Drew mystery; The Scarlet Slipper Mystery (1954 original text) must be a good book because of its condition. This book had worn and bent corners, scratched covers, a missing yellow spine, cracked hinges, and significant foxing.
Upon opening the book to the first page and reading the exciting opening line about a possible plane crash, I was captivated! Immediately, I found this story to be much more exciting than the adventures of the Bobbsey Twins and Donna Parker, the books I had previously read before Nancy Drew. The pretty, blond, blue-eyed girl detective and her thrilling adventures in River Heights and its environs instantly captivated this first-time reader. Nancy’s investigation, involving displaced refugees, smuggled jewels, lost paintings, and the scarlet ballet dancing slippers, was dangerous, exciting and intriguing.
Like a fly trapped in a spider’s spinning web, I was caught in the thrills of this exciting mystery. So great was my enjoyment that I forgot I was being punished.
The house was quiet. My dad and younger brothers were away; Mom and I were the only two at home. She was working out front in her flower garden when I heard a male voice call, “Hi, Gorgeous!” This strange person was speaking to my mother!
Curious about the mystery outside my window, I set aside the Nancy Drew book, and saw a man and a woman, whom I did not recognize, approach my mother in her yard. She obviously knew them, and invited them indoors.
I remained puzzled! Who were these people? Why did he call my mother “gorgeous?” She couldn’t be! She was Mom! She was very old … she was 38! (An aside: at the time of this writing, I am 55 years old!)
Knowing that I couldn’t solve that mystery, I returned to my book, reading almost to the first half of the novel. Hearing several voices downstairs, I knew that my family had returned home and the company was still present.
Upon entering the kitchen where most people had gathered, I was introduced to the couple. The man was a first cousin of my father; the woman was his then fiancée (now wife).
After the introductions, my mother shot me a curious look! No doubt she was wondering why I stayed in my bedroom so long without asking to be released. Likely, she thought I might have been “up to something,” but what? With company present, we both knew she wouldn’t ask questions! In turn, I shot her a smug look and kept my secret that day: I had discovered Nancy Drew!
©2015 William Land