By Jennifer Walp

As a child I could think of several different jobs for which I was phenomonally qualified. I could be a detective, doctor, waitress, lawyer, teacher or gymnast. I could even be an actress in potato chip commercials, eat all the chips I wanted, grin about how great they are, and get paid to do it. I wasn't sure which vocation would bring me the most joy and sense of accomplishment, but I knew I'd be good at any one of those things. Even without any practical knowledge or natural talent. I had big dreams.

The dream I most stubbornly pursued was that of career detective. I was a Nancy Drew and Charlie's Angels junkie, incurring injuries to my pre-roller blades-and-kneepads-era knees when I roller-skated madly down the sidewalks in pursuit of imaginary criminals and tripped over the cracks that were breaking my mother's back. Whenever I skated I imagined that my tangled, shoulder length brown hair was a flowing blond or raven mane. (No matter what kind of danger I faced, damn if I didn't look good in the pursuit and conquer of it.) I was pretty certain solving crimes and serving justice in short shorts and a convertible were in my future.

In preparation for my career as a detective, I carefully developed my keen sense of observation by ignoring my seat belt in favor of kneeling in the backseat of the car and watching the cars behind us. I peered over the top of the seat and memorized license plates, and if a car stayed behind us too long I felt it was my personal duty to inform the driver (mom or dad) that he or she may want to utilize some sort of evade and escape technique, as a car has been tailing us for a good three blocks. I believed that if I used common detective lingo, such as "tailing," that the argument of an overly imaginative and annoying nine year old would be persuasive.

Tragically, my parents weren't as attuned to the life and death intricacies that go into making a good detective, and often cut my self-lessons short by forcing me to sit down, turn around, put on that seatbelt or I swear to God I'm pulling this car over and you don't want that. But usually, if I was careful, I could get a good ten or fifteen minutes per car ride of staring at the driver behind us as he or she pretended to fiddle with the radio or stared somewhere above our car. (All very suspicious behavior, I thought.)

I read every Nancy Drew book I could, and in junior high styled my hair in a little flip, just like the one she had, when my friends were feathering a la Farrah. When I wrote in my Snoopy diary about boys at school that I liked, I referred to them as Ned, as in Nancy's steady boy Ned Nickerson. Like all good detectives I had sharp instincts, and I instinctively knew that my little brother would want to know that Pam Bumgartner was going to the end of the year dance with Ned Nickerson and I could just die. Thus I took great pains to disguise the identity of the boys I liked. I also plucked hairs from my head and strategically placed them on my diary. I was always disappointed to find the hairs exactly as I'd left them, my Snoopy diary with all of its secrets ignored and unopened by a little brother who was more interested in cartoons than anything I had to say when I poured out my angst in purple ink and extravagant loops.

I worked hard to discipline my burgeoning detective's mind by drawing amazingly accurate reproductions of my dog, Bonnie. Bonnie was a miniature schnauzer who liked to sleep a lot. This made it possible for me to work with a cooperative model as I spent hours sketching her picture on a small chalkboard. I thought if I practiced my drawing skills enough I would never require the services of a police sketch artist, I could simply do it myself. (I wasn't certain this skill would ever come in handy as a detective, but I figured it couldn't hurt.) Sadly these drawings no longer exist, as they were erased by a spiteful brother who had an obvious envy of my artistic talent and an issue with some missing Halloween candy.

My mother's lipstick came in handy in documenting my fingerprints and those of my brother and friends. It was after creating fingerprint cards for use in the event of a kidnapping that I learned that mom didn't want her makeup used in crime prevention, and lipstick isn't as appealing to the wearer when flattened down with grimy fingers. My defense that McGruff the Crime Dog said all kids should have recent photographs and fingerprint cards did not save me from banishment to my room. I suspected my kidnapping may have even been an idle, happy daydream of my mother's, but like the fact that my brother was the favorite, I could never prove it.

I followed my detective dream all the way to the end of junior high, and then abandoned it in favor of pursuing a new dream of being a world famous actress. It didn't matter that when I walked into my high school auditorium to audition for the school play I took one look at all the theatre people, the kids who talked loud and sang in the halls and never turned red and shuffled their feet when they had to get up in front of the class, and practically broke a leg running back out. I decided I would just have to be discovered walking into a movie theatre or eating at TGI Friday's, and then get my start in a potato chip commercial and move on to movies from those humble beginnings. I already knew my Oscar speech by heart, I had an autograph-ready signature and a natural, God-given love of potato chips. Not to mention one hell of an imagination.

Copyright 1999 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved