Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On my honor, I will try…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a Girl Scout. Somewhere in a box hidden away with all the other boxes of things too precious to throw away, things too prized to be kept somewhere ‘out’ where children would undoubtedly play with and ultimately destroy them, there is a bright faded green Girl Scout sash, heavy with badges.

If they’d had a “badger your parents until they want to scream with frustration and wonder why they ever thought it was a good idea to sign their highly competitive child up for Girl Scouts, which has a badge for everything and darned if your kid doesn’t want to get” badge, folks, I would have gotten it.

In spades.

Danger Mouse and Boo Bug just joined up, Juniors and Brownies respectively (but the same troop) (unfortunately, they each meet every other Tuesday, which means every Tuesday for me).

I wasn’t exactly thrilled when Boo Bug began pestering me about joining the Scouts. I mean, I have sooooo much to do already. It’s another obligation. I now “have” to work from home every Tuesday, so that I can get whichever one there by 4:30. (Ugh.)

And…the badges. I remember what I put my parents through with the @*^&@ing badges. “I need paint for my Painting Random Stuff badge!” “I need glue for this...oh...uh...wait, cool! NOW I can get my 'Get Glue Off Shag Carpet' badge!!!” “I need to make quilt!” “I need to volunteer 600 hours at a rest home!” “I’ve got to build a suspension bridge across the Grand Canyon using nothing but this ball of twine, a Swiss Army knife, and the contents of a standard Army issue mess kit! Can you drive me dad, can ya huh, can ya, can ya, can ya?!”

I was slightly obsessed with the badges. I earned so many of them my last summer in the scouts that they refused to give me most of them at first on the basis that I must have been cheating. (I hadn’t been. Unless dedicating your entire family’s lives to the process for three solid months is considered ‘cheating.’)

Their vests arrived today, complete with the initial set of whatnots. The troop numbers, the American flag emblem, the council ID patch…the world pin…the “classic” Girl Scout pin…

…oh my…

I sat there and looked at it for the longest time. It looks exactly the way I remember it…only shiny and new, without the scrapes and dings that will come when, say, you fall off a horse trying (though warned with quotations not to) to do a standing up trick…or are crawling on your belly trying to sneak up on a fox (ya, good luck with that)…or you tell the bully to leave that little kid alone and he says, “Whaaaaa, you gonna make me, Girl Scout?” in a tone that clearly leads you to believe that perhaps he thinks a “Girl Scout” is somehow less than impressive, which clearly means it is time to wipe the grit off the pavement with his sneering, moist lips

Yeah, uh…your pin will get a bit messed up. And bent. And maybe, just maybe, your mom will have to replace it. Once. Or twice. Or possibly four times. Or so. Because there’s also the “lost it” thing, which may have happened a time or two as well.

And the annual cookie sales, which in my time meant a red wagon loaded down with as many boxes as you could humanly pull, dragged girlfully behind you as you went from door to door. Hi I’m from troop 702 and would you like to buy some fresh Girl Scout Cookies they’re only $1.00 a box and the money goes to support the many character-building projects and programs of the Girl Scouts. (It haunts me in my sleep, sometimes…but I was one of the best sellers in my troop, y’all. Rain or shine, heat or sleet, I would be out there walking up and down the hills tugging that wagon behind me until I had sold every last box.) (Or my parents had anted up and bought them so I’d stop, already!!)

Funny, the things that will form us. I wasn’t an Uber Scout. I wasn’t even in scouting all that long, maybe five years – my brother, now, he went all the way to Eagle Scout over there in the (pffft!) Stinky-Old-Boy Scouts, thank you very much. It took a lot of hard work and dedication on his part. But my brother? He’s that kind of guy. He’s a straight arrow. He’s the guy you want to call when it’s all going to hell and you just don’t know what to do next. He’ll be there in a flash, and if he doesn’t know how to fix it – he knows a guy, who knows a guy.

Hard to believe he was a rotten, crummy, horrible, miserable, wretched, nerd-geek-goober all those years. (Coincidentally, they were the same years when my parents were stupid, ignorant, mean, vindictive, controlling jerks.) (Weird, huh, how they all got smarter and cooler over time…?)

ANYWAY. I did a lot of cool things because of Scouting. I learned a lot. Sure, I was motivated by the little colorful rounds but those badges required a lot of hands-on learning, reading, and getting out there and doing stuff.

As I was sitting there staring at the pin thinking of those young, young days (a bit wistfully, maybe), Boo Bug came skidding in, saw what I had, and let out a scream that shattered glass all over the house. In a twinkling, she had her vest on and had summoned (through the Mystic Sister Connection) Danger Mouse to my room as well. And she put on her vest and we pinned the stuff that doesn’t need to be sewn or ironed on and they danced and giggled and spun and there was joy and excitement and then they stopped, faced each other, put their fingers up in the Girl Scout salute, and pronounced:

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout law.

Oh, my. And then, with many a slip and flub, they giggled their way through the Law as well. (I finally had to look it up for them. They were killing me, but I wasn’t 100% sure I remembered it right, either.)

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Wow. Hard to believe how well I do remember it, all these years on. Had it all mixed up and had forgotten the ‘respect authority’ (heh, go figure) but…wow. Thirty years since the last time I said any of that, and yet I remembered it well enough to know when it was going horribly awry from the lips of two Scouts with vests so new and stiff they’d practically stand up all by themselves. (They will not stay that way for long…oooooooh no, they will not…)

But I think there needs to be a separate Promise for the former-Scout mother-of-scouts…

On my honor, I will try:
To quit bawling every time you say the Promise and Law,
To figure out how to sew on badges without bleeding on your vest,
To drive you to meetings without boring you silly with stories of how it was in MY day,
And to show you every day what it looks like, when you live by the Girl Scout law.

On my honor, I will try, my little ones…my children, my daughters, my sisters

(But seriously, guys? Go easy on the badges. Unlike your grandmother, I will not have our lives utterly derailed by your neeeeeeeeeed to get the Save An Endangered Species Single Handedly badge…) (welllllllllllll…unless, of course, it’s an endangered sheep with silky long locks of rare spinning and knitting value, in which case I’m sure we could work something out…)


RobinH said...

Heh...I didn't go as overboard as you, but I sure did a bunch of badges back in the day too. And my mom, bless her...she was a girl scout *leader* for ten years. At times for two troops (one for each daughter). And every year we'd have a group of girls who wanted to work on a badge, like cooking or sewing, that their parents couldn't or wouldn't help with, and my mom would have them over to the house a few Saturdays to do the badge activities.

She still runs into former scouts and has them tell her what a great experience they had in her troop.

Louiz said...

We have girl guides and brownies here (or at least we did when I was that age), and possibly more now.

The best way to get out of sewing on the badges as a mother of a Girl Guide/Brownie and probably a scout too - it's your badge, you sew it on. Here's the needle and thread. Off you go. I didn't get many badges!

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorite things you've ever written! :-)

I was only a scout for 3 years - Daisy and two years of Brownie - but my experience was quite different than yours. If mine had been more similar, I probably would have participated so enthusiastically, too :-)

Ms. Packrat said...

Hrmmm. My parents recently sent me a bunch of pictures and paper and other ephemera, one of which was my battered Girl Scout membership card. Respect authority was NOT part of the pledge printed on THAT card ... and this non-conformist would surely have balked at that phrase even in 1963.
(I found a little frame and framed my card to hang on the wall.)

Anonymous said...

I was a Girl Scout when cookies were only 50 cents a box. We were outraged when they went up to 60 cents. I would encourage you, especially as your girls grow older, to drive the troop places. They forget you are in the car and listening. You can REALLY find out what's going on in their lives. Just don't say anything in the car unless they ask you a question, or the invisible spell is gone. Use your information later.

froggiemeanie said...

I went to Brownies, Girl Guides and Pathfinders. Like you, I was determined to get all those badges. I badgered my Dad to help me make a marionette so I could get my puppeteer badge, even (he did it). Our pledges and laws were a little different up here in the great white north (we promised to "do my best to do my duty to God, the Queen and my country"). I should sign the girls up. We could have a blast.

Trina said...

12 years in Girl Scouts and now 12 years of Troop reunions the day after Christmas. My 20 fellow troop members have done amazing things,
We are:
world travelers, doctors, play directors, business leaders, teachers, volunteers, spokespersons, wives, and mothers (okay, only one of us has had kids yet, but she has 3) and all of us are college graduates.

Every time I am complimented on how I run a meeting I credit the Girl Scouts. And I have already ordered my cookies. I can't resist. But in My Day, they were $2.25.

Start with the Sewing badge... so they can sew on their own badges. Just sayin'. And let me know if your troop leaders need some inspiration. Our troop leader is awesome. She raised us right and is still involved in scouts. If your girls make it to the Cadette Skills Camporee in a couple years we may just be there to judge you too! (my claim to fame was as a champion water boiler, 1st prize 3 years in a row):)