The mystery of the reading character (and the need to slow down)

We live in an age of instant everything. Can you recall when coffee was the most instant product we used in our lives?

These days, in addition to coffee, we have same-day delivery, instant texting and messaging, and live reports on everything from the latest toilet paper delivery to the White House to who wore the best and worst dress to the Oscars. The speed of living seems to increase every year with improved methods of communication, travel, manufacturing and overall living. Is this the reason why so many folks are wondering how to stay connected to their family and why the frozen food sections of most supermarkets have tripled?

Last Friday, I had the chance to step back in time. It was most rewarding and enjoyable and did not even involve a smartphone. February was reading month at Ely Elementary in Rugby, and each Friday they had a special theme. The staff and teachers always do a great job of putting together Reading Month. Mrs. Erickson, the school librarian, is especially enthusiastic about getting young minds to enjoy reading.

On Feb. 28, the theme was “Dress like a book character day” and can you guess what book character Miss Lydia selected? Let me give you a hint – her character is always diving for clues, is very aware of forgeries, and is darting to crime scenes in an All-American roadster. Is her character still a mystery? Yes, she dressed up as Nancy Drew!

Nancy, through the decades, has always been a fashion plate. She appeared on the social scene all around the world about the same time as Amelia Earhart. While Earhart was breaking aviation records in the 1930s, Nancy was flying high with the idea that women could do whatever they set their minds to do – including being a woman detective! Giving Nancy an extra shove to be independent was Eleanor Roosevelt, a good friend of Earhart. In fact, it was reported that at one White House gathering, Earhart and Roosevelt wanted to make a visual point about their feelings toward social reform for women. With brilliance, these forward thinkers stepped out of the White House with their bias-cut belted dresses fashioned in flowing crepe and boarded Earhart’s airplane, which had been landed on the White House lawn. In the spirit of independent women, they took a stunning midnight aerial flight around the capital city.

Lydia selected to dress as Nancy did in the late ’50s and early 1960s. Her ensemble includes a plum-colored dress with full skirt and inset pleats and featured a Peter Pan collar which was embellished with pearls. She topped this off with a trim-cut pink blazer complete with notebook and magnifying glass in hand. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and in hand was a Nancy Drew book. As her father, I could not have been smiling more – because I, too, had not only read all the Hardy Boys mysteries, but every Nancy Drew I could get my hands on. I was right there at Misty Lake with Bess, and with George and Nancy in the “The Clue of the Broken Locket” as lake residents warned them to be careful because a ghost ship had been appearing on the lake! Watching Lydia read these wonderful mysteries and hearing her tell of the details has me reliving my days of ghosts and apparitions!

Unannounced to Lydia, I decided that I, too, would be part of “Dress like a book character day,” and I would appear at her lunch hour dressed as her father, Carson Drew. After all, Nancy had sat down many times and compared notes with her favorite “partner in crime” – dear old dad! It was great fun to get my outfit in order. Loving retro clothing, I certainly did not have to dig very far into my closet before I came across my lemon yellow cardigan sweater, coordinating necktie, white shirt and brown dress slacks. In fact, I had purchased this identical outfit for my late dad so that as adults, we both could have matching father-son outfits. As I arrived at the Ely door, someone called me Chuck. I immediately explained to them they must have mistaken me for Chuck Repnow. I certainly wasn’t bothered by that – after all, he is a nice person. However, my name was Carson Drew and my daughter, Nancy Drew, attends school here.

Now our housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, has always been a fine dessert baker. True to form, she had baked a delicious and beautifully decorated Scandinavian Almond Cake for me to take to

share with Nancy and her friends. Arriving early, as instructed by Hannah, I set each place setting for the 10 girls in Nancy’s class with a yellow placemat and lavender napkin. The crowning touch was orange-pineapple punch complete with a floating cherry and orange wedge resting smartly on the rim of each punch glass.

In strolled Nancy (Lydia) with her friends, Kathy, Ally, Kendyl, Joran, Reese, Janikka, Megan, Josephine and Monica. As young sleuths, they quickly discovered a valuable find – all detective girls in Mrs. Gault’s third-grade class were being entertained by Nancy’s father. The noon-hour adventure was filled with talk of Nancy Drew and what delicious cake Hannah baked. While the girls talked of mysteries, I reflected in my mind that living to the fullest doesn’t mean living in the fast lane. We do not need to go on a fact-finding expedition to know who is the number one influence is in the lives of our children. Instant coffee is a great convenience. But brewed coffee tastes better – so does homemade cake. So slow down your pace, take time to bake, and spend time with your children.