Friday, September 14, 2012

Trixe Belden was my first fandom

*Written in 2006 for The New Atlanta, a community for fans of girls fiction on LiveJournal. (Also, I wound up buying the first 10 books in the series for the school library. Hope it gave some other child the chance to fall in love with the series.

Trixie Belden was my first fandom. 
My love for the series sparked my need to collect books, and may even have been responsible for some of my childhood crushes.
In the summer of 1982, I was becoming a voracious reader. I was going into third grade, and the town library was across the street from my house. The librarian had a limit on the number of books a child could check out, and she began making an exception for me, if only to keep me from making more than one trip to the library in a day.
My mother bought two chapter books for me, a series about a girl detective. The books were “The Haunted Mansion” and “The Red Trailer Mystery.”
Being a horse crazy girl myself, I immediately empathized with Trixie’s yearning to learn to ride and be around horses. Trixie seemed so real to me; she was impatient, resourceful, loyal and brave. Trixie’s quick thinking when her brother Bobby was bitten by a copperhead enthralled me. My reaction would have been more similar to Honey’s.
After reading and then re-reading the first two books, I set out to get more. The town I lived was too small to have a bookstore, but I could sometimes find Trixie Belden books in neighboring communities. I saved up my allowance to purchase them, or would list them on my birthday and Christmas wish lists.
I loved how the friendship developed between Trixie and Honey, and how their personalities complemented one another. There was something about each character in the Bob-Whites that made them come alive for me. Like Trixie, who disliked math, didn’t like doing her chores and often made false assumptions, none of them was perfect. From Jim’s quick temper, Dianna’s shyness, Honey’s phobias, Mart’s teasing Trixie and being a know-it-all at times, or the way Dan (a sadly neglected character) seemed to brood, the characters seemed so real. As for Brian, I can’t remember any faults for him.
I tried and developed a taste for strawberry soda after reading the book where Trixie arranged to have Mr. Lytell carry it at his store. I’ve tried a number of times to make a burger the way the books described “Moms” making them. When Trixie and company explored the land around their homes, it reminded me of my own adventures exploring my grandparents’ dairy farm, and the hills and woods surrounding it.
Jim Frayne was my first fictional crush. Looking back, I have to wonder if my affection for that character was responsible for me falling for the red-headed, freckle-faced boy in my fifth grade class.
Though I used my allowance to buy books as I found them, often begging for an advance to buy more, the series went out of print before I could complete the series. Now, with the Internet as a resource, it would have been fairly easy for me to complete the series. In the late 1980s, though, I had to scour used bookstores and yard sales, looking for the last 11 books I needed.
It wasn’t until 1992, when I was in a used bookstore in downtown Duluth, Minn., that my search came to an end. I found the children’s section, and there was a shelf full of cream and gold books. There may have been squealing involved as plucked from the shelf the titles I needed. I was walking on a cloud for the rest of the day.
At one point, I’d read the books so many times, that if you covered up the numbers on the covers, I could still put them in order by title.
Though my collection is complete, (except for the two mystery quiz books), I still can’t resist buying Trixie Belden books when I see them in stores. I stockpile them to send to friends who share my love for the series.
In the last 10 years, I’ve met more than a half dozen people who love Trixie Belden as much as I do. The Internet has introduced me to even more.
I’ve re-read a few books in the series a few times as an adult. Now I can pick up a few phrases that date the series, but I still enjoy them. Reading the series again is like going to a reunion of old friends. I have read many titles in the Nancy Drew series, and though I liked them, Trixie has my loyalty. She was closer to my age when I started reading the series, and her imperfections made her more real. Nancy Drew was like the Barbie Doll of girl detectives.
My love of mysteries with a female detective continues to this day. I also collect the Kinsey Millhone and V.I. Warshawski series. Veronica Mars has become one of my favorite television shows, and her spunk, uncanny ability to solve a mystery, and close relationship with her father remind me of Trixie.
When the Trixie Belden series was re-released in hard cover, I coveted them. Rather than buying them for myself, though, I purchased the first three and donated them to my son’s school library. Perhaps some young girls will discover Trixie there and a new generation of Trixie Belden fans will begin.