I was a member of the Girl Scouts in my childhood, from Brownies to Juniors….never made it to the ultimate achievement of Seniors. Back in the 1960s and 70s, the merit badges were more about domestic activities, such as sewing and cooking and less about wilderness survival. My initial venture into the world of scouting was when I was six years old, the summer before kindergarten. I remember a photo of little me dressed in shorts, t-shirt and a white sailor hat with the brim turned down. I put on my brave face since I would be away from home for the very first time for a week. Camp Kettle Run in Medford Lakes, NJ was the location at which my mom would be dropping me off all of about 30 minutes from our house in Willingboro. I wanted to be a big kid and dive into the experience, but it was not to be. The first night there, I was gripped with homesickness. I felt an empty hole in my heart and butterflies in my stomach. I cried and my tent mates, trying to be helpful and even now, I am convinced that they weren’t ‘mean girls,’ suggested that I spin around until I got dizzy and passed out and I would surely be sent home. I tried it and what ya know? It didn’t work and the next morning, I was still there.
My mother had packed note cards with pictures of dolls from around the world on them. I carefully scribed lovely messages, such as, “If you don’t take me home, I’m going to die,” to which my well-intentioned mom, wrote back, “I’m glad you’re having a good time,” as she assured me that they would pick me up at the end of the week. Talk about denying a kid’s feelings. As the week wore on, I got into the routine and actually started having fun. Arts and crafts, hiking, singing, making lanyards, and swimming. That was one thing I was good at since I had started swimming lessons around age four and we spent hours a day at our community pool.
One thing I didn’t know was that my mother came to the camp and spoke to the director when she received my pleas to get rescued. She was assured that they would take care of me and that it was in my best interest to remain there. She was right. The night before the homecoming day, in an act of what would now be considered cultural appropriation, we covered our faces with ‘war paint,’ and learned Native American chants as we danced around the campfire. I’m sure no disrespect was meant. The next morning when my mom, sister, and Russian immigrant Yiddish speaking Bubbe came to fetch me, they saw that I had not completely washed away the paint and I had a strip of brown across my nose, having my grandmother exclaim, “Oy vey, she broke her nose.” I let her know that my nose and the rest of me were safe and I really had a good time and made new friends. From that point, I realized that I could parlay that experience into local adventures.
I enjoyed time as a Girl Scout and learned about being a young entrepreneur as I toted boxes of cookies in my wagon, going door to door. Giving credit where it was due, I acknowledge my parents for helping to tally up the numbers of sweet treats sold, since they took them into work with them. Our kitchen couch (ours was the only family I knew that actually had one in that room), was lined with cartons since my mother was considered a ‘cookie mom’.
Now, girls are being admitted to Boy Scout troops and a bit of a hullabaloo has ensued.
Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls,” said Sylvia Acevedo, the Girl Scouts’ CEO. “We are, and will remain, the first choice for girls and parents who want to provide their girls’ opportunities to build new skills … and grow into happy, successful, civically engaged adults.