“Tell us your name and one random fact about yourself.”
This quintessential question asked by teachers and professors at the beginning of a new semester always stumped me – until my junior year of college, when I realized I actually had a good answer.
You see, when I was young, I had an obsession with Nancy Drew. And no, that’s not the random fact. It’s just the set-up for it. Starting at about age 8, I read as many of her mysteries as I could find at my local library—up to around #150 or so. I even read the combined Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys “Super Mysteries” . . . you know, the ones where Nancy suddenly forgets all about her boyfriend, Ned, and begins having romantic feelings for Frank Hardy.
My obsession with Nancy Drew sparked a desire in me to solve a mystery – a desire that manifested itself in badly written mystery stories, notes to friends in secret code, and the reading of many more detective novels. The crazy thing is that one day, when I was nine years old, I did find a mystery.
That summer, our family made our annual trek to Platoro, Colorado. For anyone who has never visited this former mining town (which, considering Platoro’s tiny size and obscurity, is probably most people), Platoro is located in the southwest Rockies. High enough to be cool even in summer, with a glittering freshwater river winding its way through the small town, Platoro was, for me, a place for adventures and excitement, full of beauty I didn’t quite understand or appreciate at the time.
When we weren’t out fishing, hiking, horseback riding, or panning for “gold” in the river, we were reading, crafting, or playing games in the one-and-a-half story log cabin we rented every year. My younger brother and I always slept in the back room of the loft. The room was spacious with brownish-orange carpet and two full-sized beds that looked as though they might have belonged to a hotel ten to fifteen years ago. On each side of the room was a closet. The closet beside my bed blended in with the wall, its doors formed from matching planked siding.
One morning, as my mom was brushing my hair into a ponytail, I had a sudden, Nancy-driven urge to start tapping on the wall beside me, the one just beside the planked closet.
“Hey! That sounds hollow,” I told my mom.
I can’t remember her reply, but I’m sure she must have been amused.
But I wasn’t the type to give up. Ponytail in place, I eagerly opened the door to the closet and started searching for anything suspicious.
That’s when I saw it.
(This may seem melodramatic, but trust me – it was a very dramatic situation for a nine-year-old.)
In the corner of the closet, a small hook and eye seemed to be holding the two connecting walls together. With some effort, I managed to pull the hook up and then slowly, carefully pushed against one of the walls.
That’s the part I still have a hard time believing. I actually found a secret room. Part of the discovery was sheer luck, of course. What are the chances that a roughly hewn log cabin in the middle of nowhere would have a secret room?
The other half of my discovery was due to something else entirely: my childlike willingness to believe. At nine I hadn’t yet grown cynical enough to think that mysteries and hunches and secret rooms were bogus stories created to please the naïve.
Now, at twenty-three, I wonder how many times I’ve missed a chance for discovery because I’ve lost the ability to believe in the improbable. Not that I expect to find Atlantis or open a door to Narnia. But what if, by believing in good, I am able to see the good in someone seemingly unlovable? Or what if, by believing in change, I continue to work for progress despite discouragement? What if, by believing in hope, I am able to see reason for hope in a desolate situation?
Here’s to believing.
Postscript for the curious: Sadly, the secret room didn’t have any hidden safes or maps to buried treasure. In fact, the only thing I found was rat poison. But the discovery alone provided fodder for many daydreams about building secret rooms in my own house. Plus, it gave me a great random fact.
What was the craziest thing you “discovered” when you were a kid?