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The Baby-Sitters Club #28: Welcome Back, Stacey! by Ann M. Martin
In which the once-derided television has some actionable ideas, Stoneybrook proves it's a fantasy world with an abundance of reasonably-priced homes, and Stacey takes orders from an inanimate object.
My whole life my father complained that Reno is getting “too big.” My father would lament as he stared toward Mount Rose, “You used to be able to see the hills and now you just see houses.” He wasn’t wrong. I remember the sagebrush covered land that cradled our city gradually turning into housing developments with curved, inefficient roads.
Unlike my father, I welcomed the change. As far as I was concerned, the bigger Reno got, the better. Better bands came through - bands I cared about. Not just the Boomer nostalgia bands who performed on the casino circuit. Stores weren’t relegated to the universal suburban style of Mervyns - I might be able to get some alternative clothing (if it came in my size, which was rare, but that’s for another time). Reno was growing, and so were my expectations of what a city should have and provide.
To this day, I have no desire to move to a city with a population smaller than the Reno metropolitan-ish area. I will only move up, not down. I don’t care if the cost of living is exorbitant - it’s exorbitant everywhere. A smaller town would have to be pretty damn special or cheap to get me to move there.
Stacey has to make a big decision in the next BSC book - whether to continue her existence in New York City, with its culture and Starlight Express shows, or move back to Stoneybrook, with its friends, child pageants, and theaters that only show one movie at a time.
Even though she moved away from the BSC, Stacey is still baby-sitting. You can take the baby-sitter out of the BSC, but you can’t take the BSC out of the baby-sitter! I’m surprised Martin didn’t use this. Anyway, Stacey is baby-sitting for two of her favorite charges while she thinks about her parents’ constant fighting, which is never a good sign. When she returns home, she finds her parents fighting again. It seems that Mrs. McGill gets bored throughout the day because Mr. McGill is never home and so Mrs. McGill goes shopping.
And it’s not regular shopping. Mrs. McGill spent $1568 at Tiffany’s, which is $3555 today. I cannot fathom spending that much at one store. My partner and I took a week-long vacation for about a thousand dollars and we thought that was extravagant. Either the McGills are rich or drowning in credit card debt.
And what is Mr. McGill’s issue? What is his fatal flaw to rival a shopping addiction? He works too much. So what? Everyone I know works over forty hours a week and has at least two side hustles. Geez, the ‘80s were different. You could live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, have only one working parent, and a $1568 shopping trip wouldn’t cripple you for years.
Part of me thinks that Mr. McGill should be having an affair, because working too much vs. spending budget-shattering amounts of money isn’t equal. I wouldn’t leave someone for working too much, but I would leave someone for spending a nice vacation’s worth of money at a store with blood diamonds.
Instead of coming home, Stacey goes to her best-friend’s house. Laine Cummings provides a shoulder to cry on while Stacey worries if her parents still love each other. Stacey also calls the BSC during one of their meetings. Each member gets to chat with her. Everyone tries to reassure her, but it’s no use. When Stacey finally goes home, her parents sit her down and deliver the bad news.
They are getting a divorce. They’ve been to a marriage counselor and there’s no salvaging the relationship. Mr. McGill says that they have too many differences. Stacey goes to her room and listens to her “loudest tape.” I imagine GWAR, but I don’t know if Martin is a big fan of thrash metal.
The next day, instead of speaking to her parents, Stacey becomes a dude with a podcast.
What was wrong with parents these days? Why couldn’t they get married and stay married like parents did in olden times? Whatever happened to commitment? What happened to “forever”? To “till death do us part”? Really, someone ought to rewrite the wedding vows so that the bride and groom say, “Till divorce do us part.”
People in “olden times” stayed together because a woman wasn’t allowed to have a credit card without her husband to co-sign, Stacey. Is that what you want? You want your whole identity to be tied to a man, regardless of his worthiness? I know you’re going through something, Stacey, but don’t entertain the idea that if a fifteen-year-old is forced into a marriage, they should just tough it out for the rest of their lives.
During school, Stacey avoids her friends. After school, she talks to the local homeless lady until Stacey goes home. When she reaches her door, there’s a sign that says, “DO NOT ENTER. GO BACK TO THE LIVING ROOM AND TALK TO YOUR PARENTS.” Stacey actually listens to the sign instead of taking the sign down and going into her room anyway. It’s a piece of paper. Not a lock. Ignore it.
She does not ignore it and speaks with her parents. They tell her that they’re both going to be finding new places to live. That means that Stacey has to decide which parent she wants to live with and how to divide her time. Her dad is going to stay in New York City while her mother moves back to Stoneybrook.
Stacey calls Laine, who tells her to stay because it’ll be easier. Then she calls Claudia, who tells her to move back to Stoneybrook. Finally, she calls Dawn, whose parents recently divorced.
“The thing about divorce,” she told me, “is waiting. You have to wait for an awful lot - for decisions, lawyers, even movers.” (I giggled.) “The best way to look at the situation is to realize that the worst part is over. You know your parents are splitting up. Now it’s just a matter of dealing with each new step that comes along.”
Dawn’s intelligence is underrated. However, despite the nice, practical advice that boils down to, “Work on what you have control over,” Stacey doesn’t really listen to it. She springs into action - she’s going to rekindle her parents’ relationship. She tells us that her favorite babysitting charges don’t just stare at the TV all day - like it’s a bad thing to watch TV. Then she takes her ques from the very device she derided while trying to get her parents back together, including half-assed shenanigans that would feel appropriate for any of the Brady Bunch.
She attempts to prepare a romantic dinner at home, but Mr. McGill doesn’t come home so Stacey and her mother eat the food. She tries the dinner thing again but at a restaurant this time. That doesn’t work either - both of her parents have seen The Parent Trap, a movie from the ‘60s that keeps popping up in these books.
One Saturday morning, Mrs. McGill invites Stacey to go house hunting in Stoneybrook. Also, Claudia tags along, because who wouldn’t want to look at vacant houses? A psychopath, that’s who. If I could get away with it, I’d go to open houses all over the tri-city area every weekend. However, in order to buy a house now, you have to be a Boomer looking for a home for their designer pony, a trust fund kid whose parents are willing to put the down payment on a house, or an internet company that buys “ugly houses.” There’s no way I’d pass for any of those, so the realtors would never let me within fifty feet of any house with a For Sale sign in the yard.
I’m also clearly a sucker because Stacey and her mother see several houses they can afford, but they find problems in each one. To which I’d say, hey, I don’t care what the problem is, if you can afford a house, and you don’t already have another one, take it. You can fix problems. In the end, the only house that is really appealing to Stacey and her mother is a house right behind the Pike residence.
That night, Claudia hosts a slumber party with the rest of the BSC and Stacey. The slumber party goes well, and Stacey says that conversations with the BSC are natural - something she is missing in New York.
“What did Jackie do tonight?” I couldn’t resist asking.
“Squirted his hot dog across the kitchen the second he bit into it-” Kristy began, grinning.
“He bit into the kitchen?” said Dawn.
“No, the hot dog!”
“The hot dog bit into the kitchen?”
We all started laughing.
“Natural” is a word that could describe that interaction, but does it?
The girls paint each other’s nails, then they make fun of an annoying kid, and then coo over pictures of Emily Michelle. The sleepover ends with Claudia pleading with Stacey to stay in Stoneybrook.
Back in New York, Mr. McGill has found an apartment on the East Side, just steps away from Bloomingdale’s. He refers to it as his “new pad.” He’s definitely a divorced dad. He just needs a haircut he spent too much on, a ridiculous vehicle, and an aura of desperation and the transformation will be complete.
Stacey makes a pros and cons list to determine where she will live. In the end, the BSC makes all the difference, and she decides that she is going to live with her mother in Stoneybrook. Her mother buys the house behind the Pikes.
There’s some packing and Stacey has to tell Laine about her decision. Laine is disappointed, but she understands Stacey’s position. Laine goes on to treat the McGills to a breakfast that, according to Stacey, only exists in New York - bagels, lox, cream cheese and orange juice. Because you can’t find those things anywhere else. Nope. You can’t find bagels and salmon on the west coast, apparently. It’s not like I get that exact order at a local bagel place I like.
Stacey’s regular baby-sitting charges (the ones who don’t watch TV) come over and give her gifts in the form of drawings. Didn’t Stacey already get a drawing from her baby-sitting charges when she left Stoneybrook? One in the form of a giant map? What happened to it? (Link that story) Finally, it’s time to start the drive back to Stoneybrook.
The BSC is waiting for her on the lawn, as well as the usual kids. There’s a banner that reads, “WE KNEW YOU’D BE BACK, STACEY!” It gives off “you’ll never escape us” vibes, but Stacey thinks it’s great. There is hugging. We also get a Claudia outfit.
Her hair was flowing down her back, pulled away from her face by a headband with a huge pink rose attached to it. She was wearing a long, oversized black-and-white sweater, skin-tight black leggings, pink-and-black socks, and black ballet slippers. Her jewelry was new, and I could tell she’d made it herself. You know those things about a best friend. Her necklace was a string of glazed beads that she’d probably made in her jewelry class. And from her ears dangled an alarming number of plastic charms attached to gold hoops.
The jewelry is questionable but the rest of the outfit is cute. 9/10 completely wearable.
The BSC helps Stacey unpack. There is more hugging. Claudia stays behind and they talk about the divorce. There is continued hugging.
One week later, Stacey is doing fine and Charlotte, who makes a sudden appearance in the story, is talking more and is less clingy, which means she is growing up. Take note introverts: you’ll never grow up.
Also, Stacey is back in the BSC, and Dawn relinquishes the Treasurer role to Stacey.
I can’t understand moving to a smaller town, but I can understand moving to be closer to the ones you love. Whether those loved ones are actual family or members of a club, a connection to the people around you can make a home. And with her parents’ divorce, Stacey probably needs the BSC more than before and maybe the quieter life in the suburbs would be more conducive for her trauma.
That still doesn’t mean we should go back to a time when people couldn’t divorce. You’re starting off on thin ice, Stace. I’ve got my eyes on you. Just do your baby-sitting and leave the marital relations to those of us who think women should have their own bank accounts. Without us you wouldn’t be able to do your math problems and you’d be burned as a witch the second you used the Quadratic Formula.
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