Nancy and Me

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Between the ages of nine and twelve, my reading material could be summarized in two words:  Nancy Drew.   I discovered her as I was losing interest in the Bobbsey Twins, and I was immediately addicted.  With the possible exception of comic books, I read nothing else for years.    Nancy's world was absorbing.  And so much more interesting than mine.  Bess and George.  Ned Nickerson.  Hannah Gruen.  Her convertible.  Her global travels.  And her unerring ability to solve any mystery she encountered.  Always with poise, courage, independence and maturity.  And with her own car and the freedom to do as she pleased.  Nancy exuded self-confidence.  Which was not surprising.  She was, after all, eighteen years old.

Every shopping excursion to Woolco or Zellers or K-Mart provided another opportunity.  An opportunity to add another yellow-backed adventure to my collection.  An opportunity to accompany Nancy on her travels, where she would undoubtedly stumble upon some strange occurrence in need of an explanation.  And explain it she eventually did, through solid common sense and practical detective work.  Nancy always triumphed in the end.  I would linger in the children's book aisle, carefully reading the synopses inside the front covers.  Where would I like to venture next with Nancy and her chums?  Arizona?  Pennsylvania?  Scotland?  France?  It was a difficult choice.  Until my parents' impatience to leave the store finally forced a decision.

Nancy Drew accompanied me everywhere.  At home.  In the car.  At school.  To my grandmother's house.  Many of the books still retain the memory of where they were read.  The Haunted  Bridge sends me back to my bedroom, under the covers, sick with the flu or a cold.  But confident that Nancy would prove there was really no ghost on the old bridge.  And she did.  The Witch Tree Symbol  transports me to the couch in my grandmother's living room, exploring rural Pennsylvania with Nancy, Bess and George while my parents chatted in the kitchen with out-of-town guests.  The Moonstone Castle Mystery still reminds me of my grade five classroom.  And its reading area.

Grade Five.  The year that contributed more to my Nancy Drew addiction than perhaps any other.   Grade Five brought with it a new, young, innovative teacher.  Miss MacIsaac.  For the first time in my elementary school career, we weren't required to sit in straight rows of wooden desks, eyes on the front of the classroom at all times.  In Grade Five, the desks were arranged in a variety of configurations. Most often a semi-circle.  It was jarring at first. But we adapted.  For me, the highlight of the classroom was the reading area.  A corner of the room, separated from the rest of the class by low bookshelves, where we could retire for quiet reading once our assigned schoolwork was finished.  There were rocking chairs and a rug and a large selection of Nancy Drew Mysteries.  And my schoolwork was always finished early.

That reading area witnessed the peak of my Nancy Drew obsession.  Between the Grade Five reading corner and regular visits to Woolco, I devoured every Nancy Drew mystery available in Cape Breton in the mid-seventies.  And then I moved on.  Briefly to the Hardy Boys.  Eventually to Agatha Christie.  But Nancy held a special place in my heart.  I saved all of my Nancy Drews.  I treasured them.  Until years later.  When as a stupid and broke university student, I packed them up and sold them at a flea market for a pittance.  And later, I spent years regretting my actions and slowly rebuilding my collection.

It's almost complete.


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