I inherited a Brownie Troop from a woman with organizational skills that could put Martha Stewart to shame. She had three adorable offspring who always had their permission slips turned in two days before they were due and carried nutritious lunches in boxes that didn’t have Corgi bite marks on them. Needless to say, with her at the helm of Troop 229, sashes were pressed and worn, badges were sewn on in a timely manner, forms were given to parents WEEKS before a field trip and the entire year was mapped out in cohesive, detailed descriptions. Then I took over. Thankfully I had two brave female cohorts to assist me in taking on Troop 229: my warm, fuzzy “Don’t make me bake or plan a darn thing” mother (AKA Noni) and my friend “Terry the Trooper” who could easily be reincarnated as an air traffic controller.
At first it was a fairly easy gig, especially during the “Brownie years.” Seriously, you paint a picture, get a badge; show them how to set a table, get a badge. There might even be a badge for breathing and having a pulse. We would sing a few songs, have some laughs, eat large quantities of chocolate and life was grand. Then we “stepped over” into the Girl Scout world.
I was quickly introduced to a whole new Troop vocabulary that included words such as “protocol,” “authorization” and “regulations.” Terry was thrilled — I was mentally mapping out my resignation letter. I discovered that you actually had to work, I mean work, to get a badge. It was then that I made the executive decision that we would do our best with the whole “badge thing,” but our meetings would focus around two questions: “Where are we going?” and “What are we eating?”
It was highly suggested by the powers that be that our troop attend a weekend camping excursion at the official Girl Scout camp. In true Troop 229 form we opted to camp in my parent’s 1.5 acre yard complete with hot tub and electrical outlets to make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. While the girls were being dropped off with their gear, one of the dads quietly took me off to the side and told me in no uncertain terms “You’ll be needing these” while handing me 12 little airplane Vodka bottles. Tempting as it was, I knew “stress relief through liquid libation” was nowhere to be found in the scout guidebook and could not accept.
We set up our tents, ate outdoors, played in the water and ended the night by the campfire. Someone thought it would be a brilliant idea to play “Truth, Truth, Lie,” a game where you tell two truths and one lie about yourself and everyone must guess which item is the falsehood. Our first player started out with, “My dad’s in prison, my sister’s pregnant and my grandpa died while sitting on the toilet.” At that moment Noni started singing Kumbaya! We retired to our tents only to endure three continuous hours of giggles from the girls. FINALLY everyone settled down until the so-called responsible adult tent that contained my dad, mom and Terry broke out in fits of uncontrollable laughter. I guess “Vodka Dad” may be smarter than I originally estimated. Maybe I should have utilized the contraband.
The morning after
We survived that overnight adventure and, with newfound confidence, several weeks later, headed to the Toledo Zoo for another sleepover experience. It was truly amazing having the opportunity to walk around the zoo in the dark of night. While in front of the lion exhibit, a male lion decided to bust out his best seductive roar in hopes of trying to lure his female companion inside. It was impressive, but the lioness was not interested. However, one of our Troop 229 teens volunteered. Meanwhile Abigail whispered in my ear “Mrs. D can you believe it?” I agreed that the calls of the wild are incredible. “No,” she said, “I was talking about that girl over there from Troop 134. Would you ever be caught dead wearing those pants with those shoes?” Well, so much on expanding young minds. We progressed to our sleeping quarters in the basement of one of the zoo buildings. I was jolted awake by a freaked out “Terry the Trooper” who informed me that a mouse had just made a pilgrimage up her sleeping bag and across her face and that it would take DECADES before I would be forgiven.
The resignation letter that I had been formulating finally made it to pen and paper after five years. I remember writing that I learned far more from the girls than they could have possibly learned from me. There were times I pondered my sanity while staying on as their un-uniformed, slightly crumpled leader, but I recently bumped into one of my former 229 alumnae. She ran into my arms, gave me a big hug and told me that in Troop 229 she felt as if she belonged for the first time in her life. I wonder if there’s a badge for that.