Monday, March 12, 2012

Hello, Bonjour - Happy Birthday Girl Scouts

Happy Hundredth Birthday, Girl Scouts.

Michael Franti might be surprised that his song, "Hola Bonjour", reminds me of Girl Scouts. "Hola. Bonjour. Guten Tag. Konitchiwa...we are glad to meet you. We are glad to greet you." Just one of about a billion songs I sang in Girl Scouts. As part of World Friendship day each year, we would celebrate cultures. As a Brownie, Junior, Cadette and, eventually as a leader, I taught those same songs to my troops. "Make new friends and keep the is silver and the other's gold".

For me, Girl Scouts conjures memories of guitars, wood smoke and campouts... and singing...and s'mores. SO many memories. Memories of my Junior leader in Santa Cruz, Jackie Shea, who was a truly awesome lady. She (and her husband, Ludd, who always seemed to disappear after set up until it was time to pack up again) took us camping a lot! Most memorable was getting rained out at our big campout at McCrary Ranch when we had to tear down camp in a hurry in the middle of the night, tossing soggy sleeping bags and ground cloths in the back of a truck to be sorted out later, being dropped off at home well after dark. Guitars were as required as s'more fixins in those days so, whether campfire or trip in the car, we played and sang. We cooked hobo stew in little foil pouches over the coals. We had mess kits and dunk bags. We roasted marshmallows for s'mores. I was the master at french toast and I cooked a lot of it over the fire. We never slept in tents but under the stars and I woke many a morning to the squawk of a Stellar Jay. SO many memories built in that troop and riding through the redwoods on a chilly morning will bring back those memories quicker than anything. Did I mention, we sold Girl Scout cookies?

Our "Troops Own Badge" was a butterfly badge which, among other requirements, involved tagging monarch butterflies at Natural Bridges Beach. With my new-found interest in photographing headstones, I often remember our regular trek to maintain the gravesite of Louden Nelson, a former slave and pioneer in Santa Cruz educational history. We would climb the hill in Evergreen Cemetery which at the time was sorely neglected, and cut brush and pull weeds. I also remember wandering the rows and, every year, visiting one particular grave of a small child whose headstone was ornately-carved marble..was it a lamb? Or a baby carriage? I just remember visiting her each time we were there. Again, something in my world that began with Girl Scouts and probably the reason cemeteries fascinate rather than frighten me. I bridged (did we Bridge in those days?) from Juniors into Cadettes and a troop led by Dolores Pound where I continued to gather memories of camps and outings. Whenever I have the chance to trudge down a dirt trail, recognizing miner's lettuce and avoiding poison oak, I realize how much I learned through those years.

I took those memories forward when I became a leader to Monica's troop in Nevada. I joined with her leader, Audrey Frazee for a bit and, among other things, we planted trees at a new neighborhood park and we led a neighborhood trash cleanup for Earth Day. I like to think that we introduced those girls to interests and opportunities just as Jackie Shea and Dolores Pound did for my peers. And we sold Girl Scout cookies.

Velynda Wiley and I took on that troop after they Bridged into Juniors. Already friends, both having come from active Junior troops, we couldn't wait to share it ALL. We made stuff. We sang songs. We went places. She and I went to leader trainings and learned MORE songs and more stuff to teach our charges (Girl Scout leaders in "training" mode is a high-energy weekend!) High point had to be loading our entire platoon into her Camaro and my Volvo and making the six-hour trip from Minden to Sacramento to Sutter's Fort and the Zoo to do work on three badges. I would wager the girls STILL talk about Living History Day at the Fort. A hundred and five degrees, standing in front of the beehive oven watching the woman in the long wool dress shovel wood to bake her bread, gave us all an appreciation for the niceties in our world. There were the unruly trio of mountain men who ask how much we wanted for "the tall blonde one" and the shocked settlers who wondered why we were running around in our "bloomers". After we got into the spirit of the period we were experiencing, it was easy to blame the lack of skirts on "the mountain men". Knowing nods followed.

Velynda and I experienced our own camp rainout when we were preparing couscous and kebobs for a Greek exploration, to be shared with the parents due anytime, and it began to rain. Then it began to hail. By the time we loaded soggy gear into cars and got the girls home, we were soaked. Girl Scout traditions come in funny places! And we sold Girl Scout cookies.

When we moved to Humboldt and Hope was small, and her troop was in need of leaders. I helped with her Daisy and Brownie troops. Our cultural food explorations for World Friendship Day were legend - try making gnocchi or baklava with twenty Brownies! As she advanced into Juniors, I once-again joined with the leader Cathy Martin, and we began to set our sites on the dream pilgrimage to Savannah, birthplace of Juliette Gordon Lowe. We plotted and planned the trip as badge work and we sold Girl Scout cookies like we NEVER sold them before. Once there, we visited Juliette's grave and many of the homes and buildings prominent in Girl Scout history. We tried on hoop skirts and learned to serve tea as Juliette would have. My life as a Girl Scout came full circle.
And this year, Girl Scouts celebrate a century of celebrating girls. And teaching girls. Honoring girls. Encouraging girls to be strong and to do anything they want to do. Hopefully, someday the girls in those troops will write something like this blog because they have become leaders because THEY remember the fun they had in OUR troops. Here's hoping you bought enough cookies so you don't run out of Thin Mints too soon and so that Girl Scouts will continue to teach strong girls in our community.

"Day is done...gone the sun...from the lake, from the hills, from the sky.... "


Ekovox said...

Debbie, I remember the gnocchi and baklava for World Day with Shauna so well! Thanks for the memory!


Kristabel said...

All is well....safely rest...

Some of my favorite memories are camping with the girl scouts, even though I still can't build much of a fire.