“Can I steal a Safeway handbasket to use instead of a purse?”

I discovered this gem of a musing while leafing through my fifth-grade journal, a treasure trove of forgotten thoughts, feelings and ideas. Some were phenomenal. Some were horribly pretentious. All were gushing emotional pipelines, residuals from the time before girls are taught to reign it in, become demure, timid and apologetic.

Today’s inspiration is from the following diary excerpt, determined by The Hoya’s Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory to have been written Aug. 23, 2007:

“Hi, Future Julia. I hope you haven’t forgotten what we loved so much growing up. Today, I asked Mom what she loved to read when she was my age. She couldn’t remember. Future Julia, I want you to be able to re-read our favorite books and remember what we were like. And one last thing, Future Julia — should you ever write a newspaper column for whatever Liberal Arts School you attend — WashU? Tufts? Rice? — remember that nostalgia is a guaranteed vehicle to the reader’s emotional investment.”

She had so much foresight at a young age!

I now adapt the old list, previously intended for my future self, now for my future daughter. May she grow up to be kind to herself, curious about the surrounding world and generous with her time and laughter. May she be as proud of her pretention as I was.

These books will help.


“The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes” by Anne Mazer

Abby Hayes is a more fleshed-out individual than I will ever be. A fifth grader at Susan B. Anthony Elementary School, Abby already knows a lot about herself. She dreams of being a writer. She loves calendars, quotes and the color purple. She will never tame her curly red hair.

Ninety percent of the book’s plotlines can be summarized as such: Abby tries an activity —soccer/jazz band/bringing a new friend on family vacation — only to realize that she’s trying to be someone other than herself. She places that activity back on the shelf, returning to her school newspaper creative writing column, where she belongs.

The tales of Abby Hayes have quite a few takeaways: Honor who you are and what you like to do. Try everything you can, regardless. Having curly hair is difficult, and I’m sorry I did this to you.

The “Nancy Drew” series by Edward Stratemeyer

Nancy Drew is the daughter of Atticus Finch — I mean, Carson Drew! — who is low-key mourning the death of Nancy’s mother. Despite the turmoil, Nancy Drew is the go-to detective for any unsolved cases, at a variety of far-off locales, including Egypt, a haunted amusement park, the Venetian catacombs and New Orleans during Mardi Gras — “Nancy Drew and the Case of the Open Container Violation.”

Nearly all of these novels begin with Nancy expressing her gratitude for a well-earned vacation. Arriving in Warsaw with no conflicts to mediate! Phew! Think again, Nan.

Nancy fearlessly infiltrates the activity/competition/circle in question and plays to win. If it’s an equine mystery, Nancy does an impeccable dressage routine and takes home the gold. If it’s a theft from the school newspaper, Nancy’s column on women in media edges out mine for Friday release.

The “Nancy Drew” series also includes tons of key takeaways: Think logically, thoroughly and deliberately. No matter what happens to you, be kind. No matter how many times the villain knocks you unconscious, stand your ground, even if it’s your 42nd concussion in the reboot alone. Prioritize your best friends, Bess and George, over your vanilla boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, every day.

Future daughter, Nancy Drew taught me how to pick a lock using a credit card, how to pick a lock using a bobby pin, how to pick … whichever window you’ll shatter, once you realize a credit card and bobby pin won’t move a deadbolt.

But those are for me to teach you in person.

The “Baby-Sitters Club” series by Ann Martin

The ancient proverb goes: There are more “Baby-Sitters Club” books than there are drops in the ocean, each of them dealing with the most relatable topics: Divorce! Trying to be the best ballerina in Connecticut! Remarriage into your baby-sitting clients’ family! A secret passage in your Connecticut home! Step-siblings who were your former clients! Ghosts in your Connecticut home!

The series also reminds you the importance of being friends with people different from you — you know, those classic adjectives like the “bossy” Kristy, “artsy” Claudia and “diabetic” Stacey.

“The Care and Keeping of You” — American Girl by Valorie Schaefer

What, am I supposed to just sit my daughter down and talk about puberty to her face? Future daughter, can I borrow your copy really quick? No reason.

The name of this column has been changed from MISS-TAKEN IDENTITY to MISS-TAKES to more accurately reflect the content.

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