I was 10 and we were living in Port Elizabeth when we went to a Christmas function at my dad’s work. A fake Father Christmas stood next to a big, plastic, green tree. I can’t remember much about the night. I can’t remember where it was, who I played with, or what happened. What I can remember is the gift I got from Father Christmas that year.
Years later when I asked my parents about the night, they couldn’t believe it had made such an impact on my life. Each employee was asked to bring a small gift and put it under the tree. They were given no names or age or gender information. (Secret Santa wasn’t as organised as it is today.) If Father Christmas called you up, you took the gift.
I suppose you could call it fate. My parcel was small and rectangular. I ripped off the paper with enthusiasm and was rather shocked when I saw a skull staring at me, its empty eyes felt like they were looking right through me. I shuddered and gave the book to my mom. And that was that. My first ever Nancy Drew.
It took me a while to work up the courage to read it. I am still scared of books with skulls on their covers, but once I got through it I was hooked. Nancy, Bess, and George became my best friends. I still don’t like men named Ned – seriously, how many times can one person get himself kidnapped?
That was the book that started it all. Of course there had been children’s book before that, but it was Carolyn Keene (which is a pseudonym by the way) with her titian-haired detective that changed my life.
My parents opened a coffee shop soon after that and I was allowed to seat the customers. If I worked from 9:00-14:00 I earned R15.00. A Nancy Drew novel cost R14.95. I was the best little waitress right up until 14:00. After that, it was game over. I had a book to read.
Do you have book that started it all?
Art: by Honor C Appleton
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by Mia Botha
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