I have a secret. Nothing deep or dark, but I’m thinking it’s quirky by many opinions. In the last post when I revisited the Ingalls family, I said that my kids and I have been reading the Little House series together. Well, every summer when that nostalgia bug strikes, I also find myself reaching up on my office shelves to pull down an antique volume of Nancy Drew. Sometimes I still crave a revisit to the world of River Heights, chums Bess and George, and Togo the terrier. Yep, I’m a forty-something who still enjoys a trip back to the past in a sporty blue roadster. Not to read to the kids. Just for me.
Laugh as you will. I’m being strong and fessing up, and I’m going to confidently own this quirky summer habit. Report me to Police Chief McGinnis. I have a hunch he’ll understand.
That said, I will also say they don’t thrill me quite like when I was eight, which is probably appropriate. Now I compare the original, twenty-five-chapter versions with their updated twenty-chapter revisions for writing style. I still take note of how writing has changed, the POVs that shift within chapters, the omniscient POV that was relied on.
But the stories do still tug at my heart. I think my love for them is now more about the emotions I want to experience again. As a kid, one of my favorite ways to enjoy a summer day was to ride my bike down to the library, all independent and free by myself, and soak up the air conditioning while picking out three more volumes I’d take home with me that week. The bike, the freedom, the scents of the sidewalk concrete and the musty library and aged book pages, the hum of the crickets outside as the wind tossed back my own titian-blonde curls as I sped home on my trusty blue Schwinn . . . that’s what it was about.
Back when I was eight, an eighteen-year-old girl was a full-grown adult to me. I dreamed of following in her footsteps of adventure and suspense and luncheon dates with girlfriends at roadside inns, crumbling mansions full of mystery, zippy boat rides with boyfriends who showed up to help chase down culprits, and closets full of dresses and dreams and such. I lived for the hope that intrigue was just around the corner of my own young life. And her ever-faithful dad . . . there’s also the dad part of it.
I inherited my father’s love of reading, and I don’t get to see him very often anymore. But he was the one who bought me my first ND book way back when, and that series without a doubt birthed my passion to write. I was shy; I wasn’t a crowd person; but I could dream and I could write. I loved those Saturdays when Dad stopped at used-book sales and brought home bags full that wafted their wonderful, musty odor through our garage. He’d tell us about some he remembered from his own childhood; others he just thought looked interesting. But Dad got it, that love of books and bindings and worlds to discover and characters that never age no matter how many times you read the same stories over the decades. I love that love of my dad’s, and when I read a book from childhood I remember that safe feeling of growing up in my parents’ house, when I wasn’t an adult who had to find the answers. Old books return us to fond memories even when our childhoods are long gone. And I’m sure books provide escape and hope for some from childhood memories that are not so fond.
Taking the occasional trip back through Nancy Drew-land is really about so much more than the words that meet the eye. It soothes my heart and returns me to those simpler times we all long for. So Nancy, if you want to remain eighteen forever, God bless you. I had to grow up, and while life today holds a whole lotta sweetness, I still appreciate the reminders of those carefree days. May my own children–and all you readers as well–recall such joys.
(And Dad, if you read this, you’d be proud to know that Paxton has just begun tackling his first Hardy Boys book. Thanks for the legacy and Happy Father’s Day! I love you!)
How about you? When it comes to childhood books, which ones still tug at your heart for deeper reasons? Why?