I thought Kristy’s stepdad was Winston Brewer but Kate knew it was really Watson

This is Sarah’s next guest post, and before we begin I have to admit that I’ve never cracked open a single edition of the Babysitters Club, although I think I read every single VC Andrews book ever written and I used to hoard Sweet Valley High paperbacks. And because I’ve got kids and they ate my brain, the only thing I can remember about those series respectively is INCEST! And I think there were two blonde twins who drove a Fiat? Or is that just my lesbian fantasy?

……..

One night last fall, I met my friend Kate for drinks. Kate and I lived practically down the street from each other for years in Brooklyn, but never managed to actually meet for drinks until we both moved across an ocean to another country. This was all fine with me, because we met for drinks at the Mayflower, which is a 500 year old pub with a fireplace. One of the upsides of drinking in England is that you can do so much of it by a fire. In fact, that was the third time just that week that I drank by a fireplace. It feels so decadent to even say that, like I’m the Marie Antoinette of cider.

As typically happens if I’ve had more than two drinks and the company is willing, talk turned to the Babysitters Club, specifically Stacey McGill, and I was very pleased to learn that Kate could also mimic Stacey’s distinctive handwriting. I could probably still mimic most of the (original) BSC members’ handwriting at 33 years old, despite the fact that the last book I read was in 1989, and I’ve taken several courses in algebra since then. In fact, I’d bet money that you could shake me awake in the middle of the night, shove a pen into my hand, and I could fake Stacey’s handwriting better than Ann M. Martin herself. I could also rattle off the full names and club offices held of each member. It’s this very sort of skill that keeps me at the top of my field.

The other day I actually thought how I’d like to track down a copy of Babysitters Club #18: Stacey’s Big Mistake, just so I could see how Ann M. Martin’s New York circa 1988 measured up to my own New York circa 2010. How sad is it that whenever I think of the Dakota, I don’t think that John Lennon lived there, but that Stacey’s friend Laine did? (Laine was so sophisticated, she didn’t have to have a perm. This was a serious gamechanger for eleven-year-old me.) I’ve spent my life thinking of things in terms of Babysitters Club titles. Like, god, she is such a Boy Crazy Stacey. Or once, when my college boyfriend Joey helped me watch the kids I nannied, I told him I loved how he was being Logan Bruno: Boy Babysitter. And he was all confused and sort of panicky, like, who? What? Does this mean you think I’m gay?

My parents gave me a small allowance, but otherwise I had to earn money doing chores, and save up if I wanted to buy something. But the one thing they’d never say no to was books. So I would call the Waldenbooks at our local mall for days, seeing if the newest BSC title had come in yet. They knew me, and they were not completely charmed by these requests. I would say, “Hello, I’m calling to see if—” and they’d be like, “Not yet, Sarah.” Then, the minute it was in, I’d make my dad drive me to the mall, and he’d always make the same joke on the way there: “What is this one, Babysitters Club #9000: Babysitters On Mars?” And I’d roll my eyes and will him to drive faster, all the while wondering what color this one would be.

I stopped reading after #22, Little Miss Stoneybrook… and Dawn, presumably because I discovered I could harass boys on the phone instead of my local Waldenbooks. Amazon.com tells me they went all they way up to #131, not counting spin-offs and Super Specials. Ann M. Martin only wrote the first 35. The rest were ghostwritten. Looks like I got out while the getting was good.

Just last week, I had drinks again with Kate, and she told me she’d heard that Ann M. Martin came out of retirement to write a Babysitters Club prequel. I was hoping she’d gone all David Lynch meets Muppet Babies, maybe written a story about the babysitters being babysat, but Kate said it’s just supposed to be about the summer after sixth grade, before they formed the club. I’m sad there’s no longer a Waldenbooks at the mall near my parents’ house for me to call to order it.

  • megnstuff

    I LOVED BSC. Oh the memories. My friends and I would go to our Mall’s Waldenbooks and each buy one and then take turns reading them.

  • blackst3

    Cracked me up to see your opener, Heather. I also was a Sweet Valley High and VC Andrews fan. Never read a BSC book…loved the post anyway though. :)

  • The Christine

    Ahh, BSC. Good times. I was an obsessive Waldenbooks caller too.

    lrennie86, I also hated Mallory.. sooooo dull and such a drag! I read the Mallory books out of obligation, not enjoyment. I was all about Mary Anne. She was the closest thing I had to a hero as a pre-teen. God that’s depressing!

  • Erinn822

    I forgot about Mallory! Wasn’t she a “junior” member or something? And wasn’t there a friend of hers, too? Those books were later on… I feel the urge to pull the books out and look but they are buried somewhere in my mom’s basement!
    Erinn

  • xapaxapa

    Ha! Such a great entry & loving the comments! Three of my friends and I also formed our own BSC – we made up fliers with the blocks and everything. Held meetings, made awesome Kid Kits — even did a bake sale around Christmas. We all babysit a lot then (now kind of crazy to think about, since we were only around 11!) – but, we also had difficulty getting parents to call during our meeting times — they were hard to train! Usually we took care of any “business” and then went out to jump on the trampoline. Ok, actually, I admit that I would often wait by the phone while the others jumped. I was just sure we were going to miss a call!

  • lisdom

    Oh my word, the part about calling Waldenbooks to see if the new one was in??? That was sooooooo me. Scary!!

  • lisdom

    Also, I remember that one about when Stacey was visiting her Dad in New York and was having a diabetic attack or something and kept having to drink lots of water. It was also the first time I ever heard of bagels and lox. I always felt like Claudia was the coolest, but I most wanted to be like Dawn, b/c she was the opposite of anybody I ever knew growing up in Nebraska.

  • apostate

    After reading this post, I was flooded with fond memories of my dear old Great Aunt Elanor. Aunt Elanor was proper and refined as the day is long. And she felt strongly that the most appropriate gift for a child was always a book or two. When I was 12, she asked me what I liked to read and I told her: Babysitters Club. Well, she wanted to make sure that the content was appropriate for a girl of 12, so she read a few herself. On my birthday, she sent me a couple of the books along with a note thanking me for getting her hooked on the series. She was probably 80 years old at the time.
    I have wished more than once that I could go back in time and tell my 15 year old self: Don’t give all those BSC and SVH books to the DI. 10 years now there will be this thing called “ebay” and you will be able to make a killing on both complete series.
    But no worries. After taking this stroll down memory lane, I logged onto ebay and for the mere price of $11.50 plus $8 s/h, I was able to buy a nearly complete set of BSC books. About the first 35 issues plus some bonus issues with only a few missing.
    I will save them for my daughter and 7 years from now, I hope she will enjoy them as much as I did. Perhaps I will get the eye roll and sigh. There’s nothing in them about cell phones or instant messaging or facebook and who knows what else the future will hold for tweens. But even if my offer is met with the eye roll and sigh, I know that at least I will still enjoy reading them again.

  • apostate

    I always felt a little sorry for Jessica. She was like the “bad” twin and her sister Elizabeth was the “perfect” twin. It must have been cold there in her shadow…

  • Brea

    I’m with Dooce on this one: I know nothing about the Babysitters Club series and considering the comments of the dedicated and diehard, it’s clear I’ve missed out on a phenom.

    I have always loved to read, and it’s a passion that my 13-year old daughter shares. It has been cool introducing her to some of my favorites ‘when I was her age’: Paula Danziger, the Nancy Drew series, Judy Blume (which she hated). We have commiserated over how unbelieveably sad Where The Red Fern Grows was, and how weird Roald Dahl’s imagination and illustrations were. That right there is the one of the payoffs in parenting.

    I have yet to suggest any of the VC Andrews series to her, although I loved those stories as well. I guess they were so bizarre and INCEST RIDDLED that it wasn’t on my radar. Besides – who says ‘golly lolly!’, anyway?

    This whole thread strikes a chord for me. Books in my ‘tweens’ (although I hate that expression) were my own private world. It was an escape and a way to explore different feelings, without the risk of going out and actually experiencing them. It was also a sense of self preservation. My childhood was not the most ideal and reading meant always having something to do and something that was my own.

    As an adult, the escapism part of reading still holds true. As a parent, the luxury of spending time reading makes it even that much more ‘my own’.

    BTW, is it my imagination or does everyone else suddenly have a crazy cool new avatar associated with their comments? I gotta get me some of that…

  • AshesVonDust

    I used to go ape nitty over the BSC back in the day! I read up to #71 or thereabouts. I had no idea they were ghostwritten! Crazy!

    I recently started collecting them again, because I am a nerd and they’re like 25 cents at the Salvation Army.

    Oh, and also VC Andrews up until the runaways series.

  • ChickWhitt

    I was totally a BSC girl! My grandma got me the Stacey doll for Christmas, and it maybe had a little Charlotte doll too?? Those girls always seemed so grown-up to me, and now to think that they were only 13, it creeps me out!

    When our library had their summer reading program, I was in the group that had to read two 100-page books to get an ice cream cone certificate. I would get all of the Baby Sitter Little Sister books that were over 100 pages and read them all in a day or two, and end up with 20 coupons! (This might be the beginning of my obsession with ice cream.)

    I also loved the Nancy Drew Files, as my grandma bought them for me for Christmas and birthdays. My copies were destroyed by mice in our attack, so when I saw a set available on ebay, I told my mom I wanted them for my birthday. She teased me about it, but she got them for me, and I cried when I opened the box. It was like seeing old friends again!

    I also still have all of the Nancy Drew On Campus books. Those were the ones where I was at the bookstore the day they came out, and had the book half-done by the time we got home. And being in fifth grade at a Catholic school, I was appalled when in the fourth one, George had SEX with Will Blackfeather, of course accompanied by the obligatory pregnancy scare!!!!

    Such good memories. No wonder I had no friends!

  • Mo

    HA!
    I actually went to see Ann M. Martin on her prequel book tour recently. (The fact that I was the only 28 year-old in line with a book to sign? Does not bother me.)
    http://moville.blogspot.com/2010/04/ann-m.html

    My favorite book? The Super Special where they all get shipwrecked with their babysitting charges and TOTALLY HANDLE the sitch.

    I kept waiting for MaryAnne and Logan to go all Blue Lagoon…but they didn’t.

  • pyjammy

    A few things…

    - I’ve drank at the Mayflower!
    - I was also obsessed with BSC in the same way.
    - I have identical triplets. Didn’t they babysit triplets in the book? Were they identical? I think maybe it was fate that I had triplets, for sure, because of my BSC obsession. (Also Sweet Valley High, but I have boys, not girls.)

  • rainylakechick

    I’m a 33 year old woman who still has all 131 (+ Super Specials, + Mysteries) BSC books in boxes in our 840 sq foot house. It causes riffs in our relationship. If he gets to keep the drumset, then I’m keeping my BSC!

    p.s. Are you there youth? It’s me, Nikki is a fine little blog, which re-reads BSC books and writes fun book reports. LOVE IT!

  • Billygean

    Oh, I just had to comment!

    I alternated between the baby sitters club and sweet valley high though my one true love was sweet valley high of course!

    Oh the twins with their aquamarine eyes, matching laviers and sun-bleached hair, perfect size 6 figures etc! for a time I thought they were REALLY thin as size 6 = size 10 here, so size 6 here is maybe a 2 in the US, which didn’t really exist back then.

    remember all their boyfriends and their insanely long-standing relationships?! Like Elizabeth and Todd Wilkins went out for about 15 years and didn’t ever have sex! And Ken (with deep set eyes!), Bruce Patman, Sam Woodruff (wasn’t he killed?! – and in one of the secret diaries it turned out he had an affair with the other twin!). I even read the horror ones – when a twin lookalike called Margot tried to kill Elizabeth!

    Oh and the babysitters’ club – I took up ballet because of Jessi (and her long, coffee coloured legs!). I became obsessed with diabetes and to this day I have only heard “brittle” re: diabetes in those books! I met someone at a party with diabetes and he said it was hard to control and I immediately thought of Stacy. I am 25!!

    Sorry this was a complete ramble; I got excited!

    Billygean