Monday, June 1, 2009

Statistics now prove that Mother was wrong. You can look it up

Today’s NY Times tells us there’s a 100% correlation between women nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court and having read Nancy Drew as a kid. Yes! Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg and now, Sonia Sotomayor all read Nancy Drew when they were grade-schoolers.

In my family, it was a given that Nancy Drew was trash, a waste of time, and … something only badly-bred little girls read. To prove the point, Mother would draw on her sister Betsy, director of circulation for the Youngstown Public Library System, to confirm that none of the libraries in the system bought Nancy Drew books. Or for that matter, the Hardy Boys or Judy Bolton either.

So my memories of reading all those series are of books smuggled from friends and also from the libraries of older residents, people who had bought the series for their children who were now grown up and moved away. The series books I read were the oldest ones, all published by Grosset & Dunlap, of course, with covers barely hanging on and loose yellowing pages, musty smelling.

The most powerful memory called up is of visiting the Wynn family. Across US 224 from our farmhouse, a lane headed straight north for about a mile. Near its end, it dropped into a small grove of trees and there the Wynns’ ramshackle farmhouse squatted. Its lawn was full of rusting tractor parts and cars on blocks, and the front screen door was missing its spring, but I went back and back and back because I was always welcome to draw from their vast library of Nancy Drews and the others.

With my mind full of hardened criminals anyway, the walk to and from Wynns' was scary. Flat Ohio fields stretched away on both sides, and as the summer sun baked down, the only sounds would be the endless buzzing of bees, the occasional caw of a crow over the fields, and a far-off tractor. The sound of highway traffic would mute before I was halfway there. But I’d brave the silence and the solitude because the walk home with an armload of Nancy Drews was such a pleasure.

1 comment:

LSS riverrun said...

My mother allowed Nancy Drew although she didn't particularly approve, but I too remeber the furtive pleasure of reading comics. She absolutely put her foot down. No to Veronica Lake. No to the whoile Archie gang. No to Katy Keene the fashion queen. I could not believe that the daughter of one of my parents' Reed College friends was openly allowed to read comics. We had a dizzying overnight once where I read comic books until morning.
Thank you scientists for setting our mistaken mothers right.