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Intrepid girl detective

On the road with Trixie Belden

By Vanessa GonzalesPublished 8 months ago Updated 8 months ago 5 min read
Intrepid girl detective
Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash

On a sliding scale of comfort, the rear seat of an early-model Toyota hatchback was about on par with a stage magician’s box full of swords. Possibly a little lower. At least in the box full of swords, you get to lie down.

I know this because I spent a lot of time in that rear seat as a child, wedged in tight between suitcases and coolers and boxes full of odds and ends, as we crisscrossed the United States while moving for my father’s job. We’d drive for days and days, hours at a stretch, along highways under a vast Western sky or two-lane roads in the humid South. The tires sizzled on the blacktop, the beige vinyl seat cover stuck to my legs and printed patterns on my skin, and I whined “Can we stop? I want to stooooooooop” every time I saw a billboard announcing services up ahead.

The two saving graces in this whole situation were:

1. I wasn’t prone to carsickness

2. I loved to read

In addition to all the other luggage packed in around me, there was always a tote bag full of books, which I'd bury myself in whenever I wasn't begging for a Stuckey's Pecan Log Roll. When we stopped for lunch or the night, my parents would look for a bookstore so they could replenish my supply.

On one of those book-finding expeditions, I accidentally stumbled across Trixie Belden.

Trixie was a girl detective, like Nancy Drew, but more relatable than Nancy —at least to me—because she wasn't perfect. Nancy was a poised, elegant eighteen-year-old, beautifully dressed, who drove a sports car and did everything right. Trixie was only a few years older than me, rode her bike most places, got sweaty and disheveled, and often lost her temper, blurted out something dumb, or tripped over her own feet.

She had a wealthy, beautiful best friend, Honey, who was endlessly loyal and loving and who offered unlimited access to a mansion full of servants and a stable full of horses. But at the end of the day, Trixie went home to her own cozy farmhouse and loving family, where she lived an ordinary life of chores and schoolwork. With Honey and her other friends, she had a semi-secret club called the Bob-Whites—so cool! She hated math, just like me, but was smart enough to solve mysteries left and right.

I loved her.

Trixie's life was full of adventure and occasional travel, which I enjoyed, but founded on a bedrock of stability, which was something I had never experienced. I was a professional new kid, having moved to a different state every year or so for my entire life; I was in second grade at the time and would start at my fourth school when we arrived at our destination. I was used to it, but that didn't mean I loved the uncertainty of never knowing where I'd be next.

With that background, I was charmed to read that Trixie's family had lived in their farmhouse, located near the Hudson River in rural New York, for two hundred years. As an only child at the time, I was also fascinated by Trixie's three brothers (in that area, I related to Trixie's pal Honey, who had no siblings until she and Trixie stumbled across an orphan boy who became her adoptive brother). And of course, I was impressed with her ability to catch criminals, spot clues, get out of scrapes, and save the day over and over again.

Luckily for me, the Trixie Belden series had already been underway for a good 30 years when I discovered it—the first book, The Secret of the Mansion, was published in 1948—and so there were plenty of installments for me to gobble down on this cross-country odyssey. At each stop, I would pile up as many unread volumes as I could find, and then plunge into them until I finally looked up, hot and dazed, as the hatchback pulled into another parking lot.

Because the series had such a long history, it also had been through multiple editions and designs, but at this time, the covers were the "oval paperback" style, which looked like this:

Get him, Trix!

Many years later, I'd learn about the different editions (in addition to the oval paperback, those included dust jacket, cello, cameo, deluxe, "uglies" and square paperbacks), but then and forever, this cover style would mean Trixie Belden to me.

I read and reread the books, not only on the road trip where I first found them, but for years afterward, until I lost them, along with nearly everything else I owned, during yet another move. It seemed fitting somehow. Trixie had come to me when I was in transit between one stage of life and another, and she left me the same way.

In the mid- and late 2000s, I finally rebuilt my collection via used bookstores and eBay, and now I read them again every year or two. Yes, as an adult, I can see flaws that I didn't notice as a child—some related to the eras they were written in, and some just due to the constraints of being a multi-book series produced by a rotating cast of ghostwriters. Even so, when I crack open that oval paperback cover, I'm still squeezed into the rear seat of that little brown car, rolling into the unknown, with my faithful friend Trixie to keep me company along the way.

Thanks, buddy.


About the Creator

Vanessa Gonzales

“Rule one, you have to write. If you don’t write, nothing will happen.” - Neil Gaiman

When I'm not writing, I take photos. You can see them here.

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  • C.S LEWIS8 months ago

    great work why cant you join my friends and read what I have just prepared for you

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