A Woman At The Wheel
It all begins with Nancy Drew.
And it might end there, too.
I grew up with a girl crush on Nancy Drew, and it came back to me recently, when I was organizing my books at home. I found a few of the Nancy Drew books I had as a child, among them the blue-thatched copy of The Mystery at the Ski Jump. It’s even older than I am, copyrighted in 1952.
My copyright is 1955.
As a girl, I not only read the Nancy Drew books, I memorized them. I identified with her, although we had nothing in common. She was rich, I wasn’t. She was slim, I wasn’t. She had a distant father and no mother. I was close to my father, and I had Mother Mary.
Who’s enough mother for both of us.
Nevertheless I loved her and I still do, even in my fifties. Could there be two times in a woman’s life during which she feels like Nancy Drew --- pre-puberty and post-menopause?
But why, for me?
For starters, Nancy’s blond, and I’m blond in my mind.
She has a dog, and I have five dogs.
She drives a convertible roadster, and I drive an SUV.
Well, they’re both cars.
Plus we both have a boyfriend. Hers is Ned Nickerson, and mine is George Clooney.
Finally, we’re both on our own, which enables us to have all manner of adventures. And kidding aside, that’s at the heart of Nancy Drew. That she’s free, and in charge of her own fate.
No one is telling her what to do. No mom, dad, or hubby. No one can. She doesn’t ask permission. She hops into that convertible and drives.
Nancy Drew was an ordinary girl, who was extraordinary in so many ways, and because of her, I started to write novels in which ordinary women were the heroes, because we’re all extraordinary in so many ways. I’m talking teachers, lawyers, journalists, at-home moms, secretaries, painters, accountants, and nurses.
In other words, you and me.
The novels became bestsellers, thanks to you, and the trademark Scottoline heroine is Nancy Drew with a mortgage, or how I feel on a good hair day.
It seemed only natural to segue from writing about fictional extraordinary women to writing about the real extraordinary women in my life, though it’s a new experience for me, in some ways. In a novel, I have 100,000 words to tell a story. In one of these vignettes, I have 700.
I can barely say hello in 700 words.
Also, in a novel, I’m writing fiction, and here, it’s real life. The characters in this book are my family and friends.
Even though they’re still total characters.
Inside you’ll meet Daughter Francesca, who writes on her own in these pages, spilling all our family secrets, like when she tells me what to wear on a blind date.
Hint: Show the wares.
And you’ll read about Mother Mary, the feistiest octogenarian on the planet, who lives with Brother Frank in Miami. And my late father, Frank. Sadly, he has passed, but he’s here, too.
That’s how it is when we lose our parents, or anyone we love. They’re passed, but always present.
As for my pals, I’m closer than ever to best friend Franca, and as you will read, I spend Christmas Day with her and Meryl Streep. And you’ll meet assistant Laura, who sets me straight on having 700 people to my house for a book club party.
You’ll even get to know my array of two cats and five dogs, including a new puppy that makes me wonder if I’m becoming an animal hoarder.
By the way, I’m divorced twice, from Thing One and Thing Two, and they hardly appear at all in this book.
They’re farther and farther away in my rear-view mirror. They’re so small, they hardly matter anymore.
This happens when we drive, and it tells you I’m moving ahead.
There was a previous book about all of these people, but you don’t have to read it to enjoy this one. You’ll catch on soon enough. I bet because they remind you of the people in your own family.
And your life.
Because I think that women are basically the same, under the hood.
That’s why Nancy Drew lives on.
Her life is still all of our lives, as ordinary extraordinary women. Even if we have hubbies and kids and moms and dads, at bottom, we’re on our own. Each of us lives her own life, at the end of the day. Each of us has her own adventures, and each of us solves her own mysteries, of all sorts.
Parenthood is only one of the adventures in our lives.
Childbirth is another.
Love remains one of our greatest mysteries.
Marriage, a mystery I have yet to solve.
Nancy may find The Hidden Staircase, but we find The Hidden Calories. We may not solve The Case of the Missing Clock, but we’ve all solved The Case of the Missing Sock.
We drive along in our girl convertibles, and we never know where the road will lead us. At every fork, we choose our way, right or left, north or south, not only for us, but for the people we love, in the backseat. We steer a way through this life, for us and our families.
We have a better sense of direction than we think.
Our strength, our wit, and our hearts are more powerful than anybody could ever have imagined.
And even greater than we ever believed.
We are, all of us, women at the wheel.
Hit the gas.