Which was surprising since I hated it.
A dream of mine was that my mother would be more involved in my life. Or, as that adult phrase translated into a 7 year old’s vocabulary, that she would like me more. So I was SO excited that she was going to be our brownie troop leader.
I have gratefully rekindled friendships and acquaintances from my past, including Holly Bierregaard (2nd from the left) whom I thank for the use of her picture, and author Patty Dann (far right) whose latest book “The Butterfly Hours” has improved my writing immensely.
Holly maintains that since this photo was off center, I probably took this picture.
It took about 5 minutes to realize that the pride and excitement that I had that my mother was the leader was actually acutely stressful.
One of the many cues to my parents that I couldn’t/can’t focus easily was my inability to earn a badge. As soon as I got the handbook, I started to earn every single badge in the book. Literally. Everyone could find one step that they could do. Badge X, Step 3 “Run up and down the stairs twice.” I totally made that up, but it was the kind of thing I could do to earn that badge. But I couldn’t do any of the other steps.
It quickly occurred to me that I was the Queen of staying indoors and reading, and the worst kid in the entire world at anything else except knitting. My mother had to correct me every step of the way. In front of all of my classmates.
The height of embarrassment was embroidering a flower, something that I should have been good at, carefully, and accidentally, onto my uniform. We all lifted up our flower designs, and my uniform came with it. People laughed. My mother was annoyed. I wanted to disappear while earning a badge for sewing flowers onto one’s uniform.
I could definitely have earned this one. “Standing Like the Letter T.”
But there were two awesome parts of scouting. Every former scout knows what I’m about to say. Marching in the Memorial Day Parade and Girl Scout Cookies.
“On my honor, I will try:
To do my duty to God and my country,
To help other people at all times,
To obey the Girl Scout Laws.”
I was so proud to march down King Street in Chappaqua, NY with that promise in my heart and the American flags waving. That is actually a pretty powerful promise. I haven’t thought of it in years, but it bears contemplation.
The crème de la crème of Girl Scouts are the cookies. Selling? Now that’s something I’m good at. Besides running around the neighborhood with my beanie tied to my dog Bluey’s head, my father took the order sheet to work. He was a professor of aeronautic science at Manhattan College and, as a Colonel in the USAF, the highest ranking person there. So it was no surprise that he got a kazillion cookie orders.
I won the most-boxes-sold award for our troop and my prize was a sock monkey. Hmmmm, a mother as leader as a father as biggest order donor? I’m sure my friends thought it was rigged.
While I continued to be in scouts, and continued to be the greatest indoors person ever, my parents decided Girl Scout Camp was for me. I lived in one of the wealthiest suburbs of New York City, had a maid, didn’t know how to swim, was scared of the dark and petrified of bugs. I guess my parents decided I needed to toughen up.
If a badge was given for being petrified, I’d have earned it hands down.
I cried my way through my two weeks at Rock Hill Camp writing daily WHY DO YOU HATE ME letters to my parents. My very first chore there was latrine duty. I wasn’t even good at cleaning the toilet at home. Which I started to yearn to do.
Miserable and exhausted by dinnertime, I was unaware of the clean-your-plate rule. I put a small amount of food on my plate but couldn’t eat it all. We weren’t allowed to leave the dining table (mess hall style) until all was consumed. Eventually, after gagging on the extra pats of butter on my plate, they let me go.
I survived, actually liked canoeing, never learned to swim, hated latrines, was still scared of bugs and things that made noise in the night, but loved the campfires. And earned zero badges.
But who needs badges when you have a beanie.