Most of my childhood memories are episodic.
I was young, second or third grade, when my mum took me over to one of her friend’s homes. Her friend had a daughter who was older than me — a middle schooler, maybe, or perhaps in high school — and spending time with her in her room was special to me. It was like having an older sister, something as an only child I’d always wanted but never had. I don’t recall us ever truly doing anything, but I remember being fascinated by the things she was into: pictures of cute boys from magazines taped onto her wall, tapestries hanging from the ceiling, recorded episodes of 90210 on VHS from the week before.
But one thing that she had that I coveted beyond measure was a copy of the Baby-Sitters Club board game. I begged her to play it each and every time I was over, and I’m sure she relented once or twice, though I can’t quite remember. What I can remember, though, is begging hard enough that she allowed me to borrow it from her. The terms of the borrowing are a bit fuzzy, though I’ll freely admit that she never got that game back from me. I don’t know if it was because I forgot about it or because I had no intention of returning it, or, perhaps most possibly, she’d completely forgotten it as she grew up and into other interests and passions. But I remember finding it in a big house cleaning before I went off to college and realizing that it became mine at some point along the way.
I loved the game. I played it whenever I could, and I loved whenever my friends came over to my house, that I could present this as an option to spend time together. I usually played Stacey, though periodically, I’d also play Dawn.
My childhood was all about the BSC, though before I dove head-first into it, I delighted in the series for younger readers, The Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister, featuring Karen, the younger stepsister of Kristy Thomas, BSC founder. Even though I was her age, I found Karen incredibly annoying and frustrating, but I identified with her quite a bit. Her parents were divorced, like mine, and she, like me, had to be shuffled between them, meaning that her life was regularly interrupted. Up until this point, I never knew anyone, real or in books, who had a life like mine, regularly moved from place to place, from parent to parent. As much as Karen could annoy me, I identified fiercely with that. It made me feel like my own two-parent, back-and-forth life was normal.
But what Karen had was what I always wanted: sisters. Even when moving from the little house to the Big House, she had sisters around, and she freely admitted to loving Kristy especially. That older sister meant the world to her — she was a bit of a guide post, a mentor, and someone she could look up to. Kristy was a solid presence in her life, even if she wasn’t there with her every waking moment.
I progressed to the BSC pretty young, since I blew through Karen’s stories at breakneck speed. I decided pretty swiftly which girls I loved and which ones didn’t hold my attention in the same way. If Stacey or Dawn or Claudia were the main character, I was 100% in on the book. Stacey, if you don’t recall, deals with parents who get divorced during the run of the series, and she was often put into the middle of arguments between them. While my own parents didn’t bicker with one another enough to put me between them, I did spend much of the time at my father’s house listening to him and my step-mother putting down my mum in ways that made no sense — why didn’t my mother give me hundreds of dollars to spend when we went on a trip to Disney, instead of just $20? (…because she couldn’t afford to).
Dawn lived with a single parent, her mother. Even though I had the “privilege” of spending time with my other parent and his wife, the bulk of my time was spent in a single-parent household with my mother. My dad, despite having a custody arrangement, really wasn’t a parent to me. Dawn does visit her dad in California periodically, but he’s absent in her day-to-day life.