Becoming Nancy-Harriet by Caitlin Lore
As a little girl, my mother told me I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up. So of course I wanted to be a ballerina. And a doctor. And a firefighter. Eventually I came to decide on a criminal pathologist, but when I cut my thumb and passed out at the sight of blood at the age of eight, I distinctly remember choosing to become a spy like Harriet and a detective like Nancy. They were both girls who did awesome things. I mean, sneaking around in dumbwaiters, encountering ghosts, slipping into places behind grown-ups backs, and even knocking out the bad guys was way more interesting than cutting up dead bodies.
I probably told my mother to call me Nancy or Harriet or Nancy-Harriet hundreds of times, and I begged for a magnifying glass that would get the job done. I would often follow footsteps, or what looked like footsteps, trying to figure out the age, weight, gender, and even eye color of the suspect. Most of the time is was my dad—walking from the house to the shed—or my brother as I tried to catch him in an incriminating act. They were my standard suspects with the dog as their handy accomplice. But only because I was still too young to leave the house.
The summer I finally got to ride my bicycle uptown was the summer I was finally free to open up my super-secret spy-detective agency. I rode down Main Street, my helmet stashed under a willow tree three blocks from home so my mother wouldn’t know, sunglasses on hiding my true identity, and whistling a tune—something, anything—so I could look inconspicuous.
I pulled up outside Dollar General, parked my bike, and checked over my shoulder for any culprits following me. When I went inside, I remembered to stay around the perimeters of the store, out of the line of sight. I headed back to the office section which was of course in the very back of the store, picked out a black and white composition notebook, and practically ran to the register with my $1.05. I left my sunglasses on so the cashier wouldn’t recognize me, paid my money, and then headed back to my bike and the willow tree.
The willow tree was right on Main Street in front of a law office, and even if I didn’t realize I was trespassing at the time, I was right in prime spying position. I spent about twenty minutes that afternoon under the tree in my remote office before it felt like forever to my 10-year-old self, and then promptly closed up shop. I headed home, notebook in hand, satisfied at my observations. When I got home, I remember heading down to our basement to set up an office only I couldn’t find a dumbwaiter anywhere. I didn’t let it stop me though because I remembered that Harriet and Nancy kept working through all sorts of obstacles. Nothing ever stopped them, and my summer of spying and detective work only became more real to me.
I think if I dig hard enough today, I could still find that composition book tucked away in a box somewhere in my parent’s basement. It’s probably full of notes about trash trails, and mysterious things I found buried in the driveway or tossed on the side of the road. It’s full of stories about people and details of suspects. It’s got maps to the scary places and phone numbers to those I could trust as sidekicks. It might even have made up stories and a summer’s worth of agency plans. But mostly, it holds the adventures of my childhood, and the dreams of a young heroine hoping to be just like those in her books.
Caitlin Lore became a member of the Nerdy Book Club the moment she fell into the Wardrobe. This is pretty much why it was a no brainer she chose to major in English and Creative Writing in college. She holds a degree in both, and is currently finishing up her secondary teaching licensure at Illinois State University. Instead of doing homework, she’s often blogging on The Hopeful Heroine about Middle Grade and Young Adult stories or sharing her trusty sidekick’s (Captain Nosy) favorite books via Twitter (@hopefulheroine)