THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 4–The Nancy Drew Collection

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.


As a kid, I was a great escapist. I had two favorite methods: reading, and role-playing as my favorite television heroine or hero.

These are the kids in my friend Kristen Hansen’s neighborhood, which was within walking distance of my house through the woods. We weren’t playing Nancy Drew that day, I’m sure, but probably Dr. Who. Role playing was big in that neighborhood; we were all pretty creative. I’d have to guess this was taken in the early 1980s.

Nancy Drew was an exception: she was the only heroine of mine from books that I imitated (apparently frequently; Bill Buckbee recalls our entire third grade year recesses with me as Nancy Drew and he and Kevin Fuller as Frank and Joe Hardy). I’d get a new book and rip through it in less than a day or so most of the time.

My friend Sonja in my room, 1985 (she’s holding a cassette! Remember those?) If you look behind her and toward the left, you can see a small collection of Nancy Drew books on the shelf.

My friend Samantha Levin used to have awesome birthday parties—but hers was a winter birthday (in March), like mine (in February), so her parents always had to be creative. This book was the one I was reading when she had a pool party at the Danbury Y. Then we all went back to her house and had pizza.

One birthday, in fact—1981, the most magical birthday I ever had, because I got the Battlestar Galactica game and not one, but TWO Nancy Drew books—my parents were angry because two days later I asked them if we could buy another Nancy Drew book.

One of the books I got for my birthday in 1981. I read it that weekend, but have always associated it with going to my friend Carrie Geren’s house during a blizzard—Dad took me over in the truck—and watching Ice Station Zebra on Channel 11 that same weekend.

“Your father and I just bought you two,” my mother said.

“I finished them.”

She turned and looked at me. “Kristin Mary, you did not. You just opened those.”

“I did too, I’m a fast reader,” I repeated.

“Well.” She shrugged. “Read them again.”

Ah! A woman who didn’t understand anything about flaming passion. “Mom, you can’t read them again right away. There’s no surprise.”

“Too bad,” she said. “They’re expensive.”

Expensive. Bradlees and Caldor had them for $1.99.

This is the other book I got for my 10th birthday. I remember staying up all night to finish it, because it comforted me during a terrifying experience. I had, that afternoon, watched a movie called The Devil at Four O’Clock—I loved volcano movies. Unfortunately, the white bulb in the nightlight had fritzed that day, and Mom and Dad replaced it with a red Christmas bulb. I was too afraid to close my eyes that night because of visions of lava pouring into my room.

But you didn’t argue with Mom. And that’s how, at 10 years old, I discovered the shelves in my father’s den.

I read things entirely inappropriate for my age: Irving Wallace’s The Word, in which I learned that if you failed at your career you became an alcoholic and slept with lots of people in far away cities; Jaws, in which I got a clue about what goes into grass and gazpacho soup, how married people have affairs (it’s usually with someone from your past and you have to do it in shitty motels and shower after so you don’t smell like sex, whatever THAT meant), and erections. I remember wondering if my parents had ever smoked grass, or if they’d ever had affairs. I remember feeling really uncomfortable and kind of dirty after I’d read it. I was haunted by the sentence: “Ellen started to giggle again, imagining the sight of Hooper lying by the side of the road, stiff as a flagpole, and herself lying next to him, her dress bunched up around her waist and her vagina yawing open, glistening wet, for the world to see.” (That’s on page 170 of my Dad’s copy, which was from Bantam Books’ 18th printing, June, 1975).

I finally was able to get another Nancy Drew book a few weeks later, but found I couldn’t respect her. I was suddenly aware that she and Ned should be having a full-on sexual relationship instead of this namby-pamby flirting thing, that at their ages they should at least smoke a cigarette or two and drink beer, and that she should get pissed off at someone at least once in awhile and preferably use a curse word.

I associate this with hanging out at my friend Kristina Hals’ house.

And so, for lack of $1.99 two days after my birthday in 1981, Nancy Drew was buried under a pile of adult books: Catch 22, Ghost Boat, The Bermuda Triangle, The Ghost of Flight 401, All the President’s Men, The Anthrax Mutation, The Amityville Horror—whatever crappy paperbacks my Dad had laying around. I read them so fast he never even knew they were missing before they were back on the shelf.

But I kept my original Drew collection, took them wherever I went. Over the years, I’d let go of one or two that didn’t have any specific memory attached to them. Eventually, I got down to my last seven, because they were the ones that invoke a special time or place.

Today, I let six of them go.

I couldn’t put this one down, and so I sat in school and had it open in the storage area of my desk so I could keep going throughout the day. I never got caught. I was good at clandestine reading.

The only one I kept was my first, The Secret of the Old Clock. And that’s just because my parents wrote “To Kristi, Love Mom & Dad, 12/25/79” in the front cover.

They had no idea what they were getting me into, I’m sure.

The books will be donated to a library sale.

Actually, all I remember about this one was that it scared the crap out of me, and there was something in it about acid being sprayed on their suitcases. “They bought new suitcases and went from store to store filling them” was the sentence that opened the next chapter. (Persistence of memory, folks, I’m not sure if that incident was even in this book because I read so many, but for some reason, I associate that with this cover, so there you go). In addition, the skate’s “face” really freaked me out.

We loved the TV Show in our house, too. This book I got at a tag sale, so it really doesn’t have any special memory for me other than that my brother Chuck and I couldn’t wait to watch it every week.

A history book I got for Christmas one year. Totally fascinating and a must-read for any Drew fan!

If you’re a Nancy Drew fan, there is a LIVELY Facebook fan page called Nancy Drew!! here:

…oh, and if you want to know who my other childhood heroines/heroes were, here’s the list:

1. Princess (from Battle of the Planets)

2. H.M. Murdock (from The A-Team)

3. Kaye Morgan (senior biologist, Jaws 3)

4. Ellen Brody (Jaws)

5. Maid Marian (Robin Hood — the Disney cartoon version first; later, the Costner flick)

6. Lady J (from G.I. Joe)

7. Amy Allen (“AAA” from The A-team)

8. DeeDee McCall (from Hunter)

9. Penelope Pitstop

10. Nancy Drew

11. Daphne (from the original Scooby Doo cartoon series)

12. Lisa (from the original Robotech, Series 1)

13. Jennette (from Treme)

14. Dana Scully (from The X-Files)

15. April (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at

Posted on June 1, 2011, in The Goodbye Project and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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