Childhood books like “Heidi” and “Black Beauty” took me on faraway adventures, found my cheeks wet over the plights of people and animals, and left me in awe of the characters’ strengths in overcoming difficulties. These stories expanded my capacity for compassion, justice, and problem solving. They stamped indelible prints on my soul.
Enter the Nancy Drew Books
But it was Nancy Drew mystery stories that stirred my natural curiosity — that awakened a yearning to find answers, to discover what made things, and people, tick.
I was ten when I read my first Nancy Drew book: “The Secret of the Old Clock.” Nancy was a teenager, but she symbolized characteristics I hoped were true of myself. Nancy was smart, slightly sassy, part tomboy, part “polite girl,” and she was relentless about finding the underlying cause of things.
Becoming a “Secret” Nancy Drew
Before I finished reading “The Secret of the Old Clock,” I morphed into a secret girl sleuth. I made a list of my family members and “chums” (my favorite Nancy Drew term for “friends”). These people became subjects to observe.
Family members were the handiest to “spy” on, especially from my favorite limb in the oak tree in our front yard. I scribbled notes about the activities and conversations of my brother and his chums. I collected evidence in the form of gum and candy wrappers. I recorded the times my mother and father got home from work (sometimes forgetting to do my chores before those arrival times).
It was harder to record the activities of my chums. I had to quickly jot observations onto notebook paper during school, or wait until I got home.
My little sister, another curious girl, discovered the hiding place for my “Observations” journal. She showed it to Mom. A wise woman, my mother encouraged my writing and deducing, but warned against spying on others. I also found a new Nancy Drew book under the yearly Christmas tree until I deserted Nancy for Sherlock Holmes.
A Lasting Influence
It was Nancy, though, who influenced me to listen more and talk less, to note things that seem out of place, to sense people’s shifts in moods. These skills served me well throughout my years as a teacher and a counselor.
Nancy also confirmed, before it was a given, that girls can do anything. She influenced quite a few women, including Sandra Day O’Connor, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Above all, Nancy instilled in me a lifelong curiosity about people and events, both locally and globally. I don’t know what it means to be bored. In fact …
… oh, please excuse me; I hear mysterious footsteps in the hallway.