The first time I heard about Girl Scouts was from an older Brownie in grade school. My sister, several years my senior, had never joined. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to don one of those cool brown dresses and put on my beanie. Each week we brought our dues, kept safe through the school day in a small leather belt-pouch with the Brownie logo on it. That simple act of bringing dues helped establish a sense of responsibility.
I’d always been a shy and awkward child, so being part of a group felt wonderful. We did many activities and projects, like paperclip necklaces wrapped with contact paper and cast resin paperweights. Knife skills and safety circles were also part of the program. I still check my safety circle when using a tool. The handbook had great illustrations and instructions, including how to make a bandana hat by tying it over your knee. It’s a shame those aren’t in the new handbook. Even the Brownie story has changed through the years. At least the investiture ceremony hasn’t. “Twist me and turn me and show me an elf. I looked in the water and saw myself.” From that time forward, the girl scout promise became part of me.
I loved being a Brownie and was very excited to fly up to Junior Girl Scouts, but missed the ceremony due to illness. The uniform of the day was green slacks with a green belt, a white button-down shirt with a trefoil pattern, and a snap on tie. I would have loved my girls to wear my uniform, but I must have been a total toothpick. Neither of them fit, not even my youngest who was always petite.
My first camping trip was either in Brownies or Juniors. I honestly can’t remember which. There’s nothing like staring at a campfire and the smell of burning wood. Unfortunately, I was afraid of bugs and the dark. The platform tents we stayed in had a lovely collection of creepy crawlies. Most of the night was spent scouring the walls with my flashlight to make sure nothing would crawl over me. Despite the nighttime fears, I had a great time.
Although I left Scouts because of a time conflict with religious school and meetings, the GS promise and law had become ingrained in my personality. It wasn’t until HS that a friend reintroduced me to Girl Scouts. I rejoined as a Senior scout and instantly fell in love with camping, wild foods, and lots of fun. Have you ever picked fiddle heads, or made acorn bread on a campfire stove? I did that and more.
A few activities stick out in my mind. The Yukon sled pull, was one of the first council events I participated in. Cadette troops pulled sleds around the lake, while Senior troops tested their knowledge at various stations. Having missed part of Juniors and all of Cadettes, I needed a crash course in safe handling of all the tools my troop was in charge of. It was the first time I’d ever handled an axe. I learned so much that day and had a blast at the same time. Another exciting weekend was a backpacking trip along the Appalachian trail. We hiked from High Point State Park to Sawmill Lake.
One of my fondest memories was the survival skills weekend. Our troop spent all winter studying, and this was our chance to teach the Cadettes. We covered all the basics, and even did a search and rescue exercise. A friend of mine and I were “rescued” by a group trying to duck the exercise. After a few moments of scrambling to remember first aid, (I feigned a hurt ankle.) they managed to get us back to base camp safely. All in all, they did a great job, although I’d prefer not to be carried in a sleeping bag stretcher again. The exercise was called the next day. Storms had rolled in overnight, flooding several tents. Even with the downpour, three teams got their breakfast fires lit, one without matches before we called it quits and went to the lodge.
Earning awards wasn’t my focus when I joined scouts. I was most interested in the social aspects. But after my first year back, I set myself an ambitious goal. The silver and gold awards were new and didn’t have the scout level restrictions they do now. It took a lot of hard work, but I proudly wore my senior uniform as I received the silver award. By the way, that was my least favorite uniform. The pea green skirt wasn’t too bad, but a green, yellow, and blue plaid shirt was too much to bear.
I’ve always loved the outdoors, whether it be gardening or exploring the woods. GS gave me the chance to expand my knowledge and experience. The wild foods skills came in handy when I moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where I harvested the edibles from my backyard garden and froze them for the winter. Even now, my family occasionally accuses me of feeding them weeds.
As an author, I often dip into what I learned in scouts. Tatiana, the main character in my first novel, Star Touched, has a knack with wild foods and herbs. Kara, from Wolf Dawn, lived in the wild with a wolf pack for eight years. Even Maya, from Mark of the Goddess, knows which plants can help and which can kill. Their ideals mirror my own, and many reflect what I discovered in Girl Scouts.
By the way, I’ve held onto more than the Girl Scout promise and law. I still have my Brownie dues pouch, my junior uniform, and a few pieces of my Senior uniform. When my children were old enough, I became a troop leader. Both earned the Silver award and my Eldest, the gold. I’m super proud of the women they have become and am thrilled there were able to experience Girl Scouts like I did. We are all life time scouts. When they have kids, I hope they discover the joys of scouting as well.