Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I Dreamed a Dream of Nancy Drew

I dreamed that my some-day daughter would love her as much as I did.  (And in my dreams, Nancy will always be wearing a skirt and pumps.)

When I was a grammar school student, the library in the Catholic school I attended had old books.  Lucky me!  I bet you can figure out where you'd find me on library day - perusing and choosing one of the yellow-spined hardcover Nancy Drew mysteries.  I could hardly wait for library day every week so I could delve into new adventures with Nancy, George, and Bess.  I'd start to unravel the clues along with Nancy, speculate which bad guy was behind all the mayhem, and know that despite all the peril she put herself in, Nancy's brains would ensure that in the end, she would solve the crime and would live to tell the tale (and go out on another date with the dreamy Ned Nickerson!)

I loved mysteries and I loved Nancy Drew.  Back when I was in school, I don't think I ever wondered why I loved her.  But I was probably smart enough that if someone had asked me what was behind it all I could have told you that Nancy was confident, competent, considerate, kind, resourceful, educated, and not afraid of danger.  She knew how to do everything - tie knots, ride horses, drive a speed boat (not to mention her blue convertible), speak French, and wield a flashlight.  She always looked great.  She was using her brain and she was making a difference.  As an adult I think I can appreciate what the stories have to offer even a little more - loyal friendships, a doting father who gave Nancy the freedom to pursue her passion, the often life-saving value  of Nancy's confidence in herself and consideration for others, the fact that she was competent in such a variety of areas (none of which was acquired at college and narrowly geared toward a high-paying career), and the fact that Ned was in her life but was not a distraction and was not the object of everything she did. 

I don't ever remember being the type of girl that sat around dreaming of her future wedding, or planning what my house would look like when I grew up, or what the names of my some-day children would be.  But there was one thing I did dream... that my some-day daughter would read Nancy Drew and that a never-to-be-broken, sleuth-loving bond would be forged between us.  As I entered high school I had already seen that Nancy Drew was changing (In fact she bad been changing ever since her very introduction to girls in the 1930's.) Even at the dorky awkward age of 14 or 15 (incidentally, I usually still feel like I'm at a dorky awkward age...) I had the presence of mind to know that I wanted my some-day daughter to know and love the Nancy that I knew and loved.  It was the Nancy of the 1960's and 70s. (thanks to the school library with the old books!) The music department at my high school had a used book sale fundraiser one year, and what do you suppose I bought??  An entire box full of Nancy Drew's from the the 50's and 60's. (Who would give those away????)  Twenty years later, I found them still packed in the same box in which I first toted them home (my mother shaking her head in amusement that a high school sophomore just spent $10 on a daughter she *might* have!)    

I have that some-day daughter now.  In fact, I have two.  (with perhaps another on the way?!?!?)  And the box of books is waiting.  Some day these girls will be ready to curl up on the couch, tune out the hum of the rest of the household, and plead with me, "Mom, just one more page!" when I say it's time to set the table.  Nancy, who of course will be wearing a skirt, cardigan, and pumps, will have illuminated more than dark corners with her always-on-hand flashlight.  She'll have lit imaginations and a mother-daughter bond that I've dreamed about since before the "daughter" even was.  

* * * * * *


If you're a fellow Nancy Drew fan I know you'll love this book, Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her,  by Melanie Rehak.  I read it about six years ago, but still recall how much I enjoyed it - the history the series, the format, the many writers all under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, the quarrels and lawsuits, and most of all the evolution of Nancy.  I was particularly fascinated with the details on how the character changed over time to suit the times - her personality, her dress, her hair.  It was also interesting to read about the changes that were made to the texts to reflect the changing cultural and societal norms, particularly in the areas of civil rights and women's rights.  

I admit that I haven't read many of the Nancy Drew stories that were written after 1980, but I'm not too upset about that.  I know that contemporary Nancy is far more concerned with her relationship with Ned and *gasp!* other young suitors.  I love her relationship with Ned in the old days - he was mature, strong, and accomplished, but he was not her rescuer, and she certainly was not chasing after him with fluttering eyes and a flirtatious smile.  The Nancy and Ned of old had a healthy, respectable relationship that my former-counselor husband would call love and admiration between two well differentiated people (laypersons talk - they weren't co-dependent or manipulative.)  I also know that contemporary Nancy has a cell phone and a hybrid car. Who knows - she might eve have a blog!  She may be a modern gal with politically correct sensibilities and a spare thought for the ozone layer...  

But I just want my daughters to love the Nancy that I love - the one with the blue convertible and the flashlight, the girl with the serious but not-a-distraction boyfriend, the girl who gets out of a jam with her brains, not a text message.  And the one with the skirts.  To me, she's not Nancy Drew without 'em :)


  1. Can't believe you have your set in hardback!! Ours includes many paperbacks. And so awesome you bought them as a teen for your daughter. So is this where I tell you that I have ten boxes of the best of the best put away for my someday grandchildren and my daughter has started collecting for her someday children. oh and another collection to start, Carolyn Keene also wrote the Dana girls series

  2. I liked them too....one of my girls plowed through much of the old series. She liked the Dana Girls too. You are fortunate to have such a set!!! You model love of good literature and I appreciate your thoughts and wisdom. Lisa P.

  3. I'm right there with you, I was the girl with her nose in the Nancy Drew book and ALWAYS eager for library day so I could check out the next one and beg the librarian for 2. I would love to have the entire set, I'm so happy you have it since your a fellow fan I can't even be jealous!

  4. Oh how cool! I loved these books as well and now my daughter loves them ( I think more than I did!) I also loved the Bobbsey Twins!

  5. Now I want to read them! And have a daughter;)

  6. I loved Nancy Drew when I was young! I distinctly remember lying on the floor under dining room tables (eating cookies ;) ) and reading an entire book one Sunday afternoon. Heaven!


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