Girls in the Trees

I have another book on my “to read” list.  A new biography of Juliette Gordon Low presents more insight into the life and times of the founder of Girl Scouts of America. I am definitely in the camp (ha ha!) of Girl Scout fans.

Having grown up in rural, small town New York, my childhood organization choices were limited. For boys there was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout troop. There was Little League, but that was still during the age of “no girls allowed”.  For us girls there wasn’t much. I did a stint in the co-ed 4-H at some point, but I vaguely remember that I joined with one of my friends because one of the cute boys in my class was also a member.

Being a collector, I coveted the ephemera of Scouting. I knew there were Girl Scouts. I knew that they could earn fun, brightly colored badges via lessons and experience. I grew up jealous.

Ali’s grade school had a great after school program where kids could participate in activities ranging from origami classes, to languages, to dancing. They also had Girl Scouts. When Ali wanted to join the school Brownie troop, I eagerly paid the seven dollar annual membership fee for the both of us. I became a co-leader with Mrs. Miller – a wonderful kindergarten teacher. Ali and I entered the world of Girl Scouts together.

Many of the little girls that I got to know that year stayed with me until they entered high school. When the school was no longer able to support the programming, Junior Girl Scout troop 929 and Brownie Girl Scout troop 425 moved to my house. Through an elaborate carpool system staffed by wonderful parents, girls got from school to my house for weekly meetings. I don’t think the designated snack person ever forgot the snack bucket. I don’t remember ever having to beg for helpers or supplies. In my memory, it worked because everyone was happy to be a part of it. Everyone knew that this was the kind of thing that was important to little girls.

We definitely made some memories. The first time that we went camping, we stayed in a building with bathrooms, but it was out in the woods and as rustic as many of the girls had ever experienced. It got real when a mouse ran across the floor and a mom nonchalantly stomped it. We progressed in our camping in following years. We slept in three sided cabins with cots. We had to venture to outhouses. We cooked over fires, hiked, sang, and played outdoor games. Little girls got in harnesses, climbed high up into the trees, got attached to a rope, and zipped across the forest. We got dirty and tied bandanas over our messy hair.

At meetings there were lots of beads and crafty things. We had a stuffed cat and a journal that got boxed up and sent to other troops around the country. It would return with new decorations and entries in its journal. We did service projects. We went on field trips, including a weekend train trip to St. Louis. There were many cookies sold.

Several of the girls spent weeks at camps over the years. They got to know other girls who shared their Scouting bond. They got to try even more things. Some of my girls developed a love and skill with horses that will always be there.

Eventually, the girls got older and meetings got harder to coordinate with other activities. They were now young women and my time as their Girl Scout leader came to an end. It had been a terrific time for me. I not only got my own prized collection of ephemera, but I also got my own Girl Scouting memories.

Around Mother’s Day this year, I received this message in my Facebook mailbox:

I know that it is very much past Mother’s Day, HOWEVER, Mother’s Day got me to thinking about all of the mothers I’ve had. Women who inspired, guided, challenged and loved me. You are one of those. Someone who not only told me I could do it, but more importantly went out and did it themselves. Someone who taught that life was and is my own to live, someone who created for me (as a little girl and now as an adult) an environment where success was always possible but failure was not the end of the world. The years we all spent with fear that we were probably too young to understand or appreciate what it was you did for us. But I do appreciate it. And I wanted you to know that. Thank you.

Thank you, Juliette Gordon Low for understanding that girls deserve and need a place of their own – right from the start!


2 thoughts on “Girls in the Trees

  1. What a lovely account of your experiences with girl scouting. I spent many years as a girl scout and got many great adventures out of it including camping and spelunking. So many people I meet as an adult completely misunderstand girl scouting and the opportunities it provides. Your post explains it so well.

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