Melbourne is hot. The days have been accumulating uncomfortable situations. This is not the time to be cooped up in a room working on edits of another draft. Tonight I sat down to work. For the first 30 minutes, I was feeling pretty satisfied with myself. ‘Look at me! It may be hot but I’m moving words around on a screen. I deserve a drink.’
I got said drink, came back to the screen. And here I am. Best laid plans and all that stuff. My mum called tonight. She loves a chat. My mind may or may not have started wandering during the phone call… and for some reason I started thinking about my early teen years, before ‘tween’ was invented and I was just a kid living in a creepy house reading books.
This brings me to regrets. Here is where two things collide. Last year while I was looking around the Op Shop down the street, I came across an eight to twelve year old’s holy grail. My holy grail. A box of 100 – yes, 100!!! – Baby Sitters Club books. Numbers 1 – 100. I reached out to them like old friends. The shop was only asking for $40. The holy grail.
The conversation in my head went something like this:
Adult Sarah: ‘Oh look. I would’ve loved those when I was younger. I could finally finish reading the series.’
Young Sarah: ‘I do love them, but that’s not the entire series. This is just the first 100.’
AS: ‘But I’m so busy. Where would I find the time to read them?’
YS: ‘Who cares? Just get them.’
AS: ‘This all comes down to storage. Where would I put them? I’ve already lost 200 + books in the great garage flood*. The bookshelves in the lounge room are overflowing.I made a promise I wouldn’t buy any more books for the rest of the…’
YS: ‘Details, details. Buy the books, you wont regret it.’
AS: ‘I guess this could make up for the time mum threw ALL my Baby Sitters Club books out when I was 18.’
AS: ‘And I’m an adult! I can buy whatever I like.’
AS: ‘It’s like I’m fulfilling your dream, Sarah.’
AS: ‘But 100 books…’
AS: ‘How about we walk out, have a think and then come back in a week. If they’re still here, it was meant to be and I’ll buy them.’
YS: ‘You’re making a huge mistake, Sarah. These are gold. Someone is going to…’
AS: ‘Trust me. One week and they’re ours.’
Never wait. The next week rolled by and off I went. I felt giddy. Then: mortification. Some rando found the books and bought a few of them. Things got worse: rando didn’t buy them in order.
Who was this person? How dare they? They didn’t deserve Kristy and her big idea, or Maryanne’s love for Logan, or Stacey’s diabetes. And there was no way they deserved Claudia’s art. I was furious. The thief chose books on a whim, didn;t even have the decency to buy them chronologically. How much did the Op Shop sell them individually? They should’ve said, ‘No sale unless you buy the lot.’
Dejected, I left. I’ve rarely given the incident another thought.
Actually, this is a lie. I often think about this incident particularly when I can’t sleep. Back in the day, instead of counting sheep, I would talk myself through each book until I fell asleep. Starting at book 1, Kristy’s Great Idea, I’d rattle off the BSC in order, starting from who held which officer roles, who knew whom when, describing the front covers, and the plot points of each one. The furtherest I ever got in the sleep-time count down was book 10, Logan Likes Maryanne. It sounds so vanilla and safe, but they truly were a haven for me at night before the age of 13. They helped me cope with the weird noises my house made and the little shadow figure I’d see in the hallway from time-to-time. They also taught me the value of books as companions.
So I was thinking about all of this while on the phone to mum tonight and thinking, ‘I can’t believe she threw those books out.’ But the truth is, I threw them out. I packed them up and forgot all about them, left them to be discarded. And I moved on from them. I moved on from them as soon as I started year 7 (ok, year 8. But only when I felt like being lazy and reading something easy).
And instead of writing and working toward my deadline, I’m here distracting myself with a childhood/adulthood regret. Truth be told, I’m avoiding a bigger issue that strikes when redrafting particular sections: the idea that I have to deal with Lizzie Borden on a night like tonight, one that is sticky, humid, and full of dogs barking away the heat, is an uncomfortable reality. I know I’ll be going to bed thinking of her and I’d give anything right now to hold a BSC book in my hand and flick through its pages, read myself to sleep.
So instead, here’s some gold moments for me to treasure:
Granted, the characters looked different in my head, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Oh, look who’s turned up:
This is Lizzie a few days after she was acquitted of murder and released from jail. I’ll deal with you tomorrow night, Lizzie.
*The garage flood.
When we moved into this current house we realised we had more books then space, so in my wisdom I boxed up a heap of books I couldn’t bear to throw out but knew I wouldn’t need them on hand in a hurry (everything from some books I had as a kid, pulpy reads, stephen king, some books I read for Uni Lit studies i.e the ones I found boring, and so on). So into the garage they went and life went on. We had a lot of rainfall this winter and every so often when getting into the car, I’d notice how much more rain came through the roof than previous years. And then I found my book boxes. Soggy and collapsing. A terrible sight. When I unpacked the boxes, every book was moldy and ruined. Pages stuck together and front covers fell off in my hand. It took three bin nights to get rid of it all.