Remembering The Baby-Sitters Club

Hmm. Not her best outfit.

Hmm. Not her best outfit.

I recently took this BuzzFeed quiz and it rekindled my long-dormant memories of The Baby-Sitters Club book series!

I LOVED The Baby-Sitters Club (BSC!) books when I was a kid, and just seeing the characters’ handwriting reproduced in the quiz made me so nostalgic. I earned a perfect score, but my correct answers were less about remembering the plot lines (which must be from books released after I outgrew the series) and more about remembering which handwriting belonged to which character (the books always included snippets of handwritten text from each girl).

We all know the premise of the BSC books, right? A group of middle school friends joins together to form a babysitting collective. They advertise (with flyers!) and meet at the same time and place each week to receive (landline!) phone calls from neighborhood parents looking to schedule responsible, affordable babysitters. The girls live in fictional Stoneybrook, Connecticut—a super-safe, super-idyllic, and super-WASP-y suburb. The BSC books are all about the girls’ adolescent adventures in this sweet, perfect bubble of a world. Each character was unique so readers could quickly identify with or aspire to one or more of the babysitters—Kristy was the sporty firecracker, Claudia was the artsy free spirit, Mary Anne was the shy Victorian bookworm, Dawn was the hippie chick, etc.

My favorite babysitter was Stacey McGill. The word used to describe Stacey in every book was “sophisticated,” and she had a certain kind of pre-teen glamour. She had grown up in New York City, where she was allowed to take cabs and trains without an adult (and this was before Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the place). Stacey had fluffy blond hair (probably feathered, now that I think about it) and she wore makeup and had the most stylish clothes. Maybe she even had her ears pierced twice? (Like I said—GLAMOUR.) Stacey moved to Stoneybrook when her parents divorced, I think.

Stacey had diabetes, too, which added another layer of exoticism and maturity to her character. She kept a strict diet, managed her own medicine regimen, and went to fancy city doctors. I loved going to the doctor as a kid, so I think this aspect of Stacey’s identity made her even more attractive to me. I only had asthma and allergies, but I loved the special, important feeling that a doctor’s visit gave me—conferring with this respected, educated man, being out alone with my mom, and maybe going out for lunch together after my appointment.

I read the BSC books in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, so I can only imagine how far diabetes treatment has come in the last two decades. I remember an especially poignant scene in the books when Stacey is babysitting her favorite charge—a quiet, sweet little girl named Charlotte—and they visit a candy shop. The store is beautiful and bursting with colorful candy, including fancy individual chocolates set out on silver trays. Charlotte begs for a treat—”Just one? One each?”—and Stacey feels in her pocket and realizes that she has “more than enough money for two pieces of candy.” Stacey’s sorely tempted, and she goes so far as to pull out her money and place it on the glass case, but then she makes the right decision. She can’t afford the extra sugar, and Charlotte can’t ruin her dinner, so they leave the store empty-handed and disappointed.

Ugh. I can’t even. Just imagine not being able to eat a single piece of candy for fear of derailing an entire delicate balance of glucose and insulin! The unfairness! The grave responsibility! The perfectly coiffed exterior belying deprivation and severe illness!

So I especially loved tragic, beautiful Stacey, but I loved everything about the BSC. The girls were so organized and they had a surprisingly strong grasp of parliamentary procedure for their age. They had formal titles (president, vice president, etc.), fulfilled clearly defined roles and responsibilities, kept attendance and meeting minutes, called for discussion of new and old business, kept a master schedule, etc. They also collected monthly dues from each member, and the money was used for advertising (flyers), communications (Claudia’s personal landline—the height of privilege in that time), and inventory—that is, outfitting their “Kid Kits,” the boxes of craft supplies, small toys, and other goodies that they would take to babysitting jobs to entertain the kids.

GAH. All of that order and independence and responsibility just SPEAKS TO ME, then and now. These girls were making and managing their own money, organizing their own time, and handling their own affairs. What could they have accomplished with business degrees? Syncing calendar apps? Or even driver’s licenses?! It boggles the mind.

All of that organization and wholesomeness may sound boring, but it wasn’t—at least not to me. The girls had their interpersonal issues, family dramas (divorce, remarriage, death, sibling rivalry), babysitting challenges, and some limited romantic experiences. And when things got too calm and predictable in Stoneybrook, you could always read one of the BSC Super Specials. These books were extra-long and usually followed the girls on some kind of vacation or adventure. They worked as camp counselors in one Super Special, went on a cruise in another, and visited Disney World in another.  My family couldn’t afford to go on any fancy trips like these, so I loved taking in every detail about the amenities and attractions.

I kinda want to re-read the BSC books after writing about all of this, but I’m afraid that re-reading them might ruin my good memories. I don’t want the books to seem flat and trite, and I don’t want pesky facts to mar whatever impressions or memories I have. (In a similar way, I don’t plan to read Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. I love Atticus and Scout just as they are in my head.)

So—did YOU ever read the BSC books? Which babysitter was YOUR favorite?

P.S. Stacey’s handwriting was cute and bubbly and she dotted her lowercase i’s with hearts. Totes adorbs, of course.

P.P.S. So I took this quiz, too, and got Logan Bruno. Weird.

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