I was a GS for 3 years as a girl, in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. The impact it has had on my life has been immense. I didn’t know that then, of course. I just knew that I had finally found an organization that felt right to me, helping me learn about stuff that I cared about, hanging out with friends, and earning badges. The saddest part was when I (and a couple of my friends) were told we had to find a different troop because we were moving to the next level, and the leader didn’t want to lead a multi level troop. Of course, there were no other troops that met in our remote neck of the woods, and especially not one that was for older girls. So that was the end of Girl Scouts for me as a girl, and the reason why I (as an adult) never say no to a girl who wants to be in my troop.
Lest you think my leader was cold for booting us out like that, I must say I understand. Leading a multi level troop is exhausting – and she had a job and kids. I understand, but I was sad.
Anyway, during the 3 years I was in her troop, we did some amazing things. All the usual – camping, earning badges, cooking, and crafts – but some really not usual things. I remember a fashion show – we were all the models for our local Belk’s store. There was a lock-in, where we stayed up all night, which was much harder than it sounds like it should be. We earned the highest award at the time – the First Class Scout. It’s considered the same as the current Gold Award, but it was earned very differently. (It is much harder now.)
One of the coolest things I remember, and I still wonder how she pulled this off, was a foreign exchange program. Our troop hosted 14 Japanese Girl Scouts, each one staying with a family. It was an amazing experience, meeting these girls and learning about their culture – and especially having Satomi join our family for 3 weeks.
Normally, this is not something we could have ever convinced Dad to agree to. He was kinda an old stick in the mud. But they were from Japan. When Dad was in the Korean war, he was on a ship stationed in Japan, and he loved their culture. So I’m pretty sure that was the only reason he agreed to have her stay with us.
I’ve been working on cleaning our back bedroom for close to a year – it has a LOT of old junk in it. Rather than just move/hide the junk, I wanted to actually go through all of it, throw out stuff, yard sale, thrift store, ebay – whatever is needed to clear this stuff away. I wanted to prune it down to just the important stuff.
So whenever I have some time during the afternoon, I drag a box out of the closet to sort through. I have thrown away SO many notebooks filled with college class work, so much old computer stuff, just so much junk. I have also just moved a lot of the stuff aside, to figure out what to do with it later.
Anyway, there was a box up there, that I knew had a game in it, that Satomi gave us during her visit. It was called battledore, and it’s a big fancy decorated paddle, that you use to knock shuttlecocks with, kinda like badminton. I’ve been ignoring it, because I had no idea what to do with it. Anyway, a phone call with my sister gave me some thoughts, so I pulled it out to see what shape it was in.
And it wasn’t in there. Instead, the box was full of all the other stuff Satomi had given us, and all the mementos I had collected from that visit.
Like these adorable Japanese Girl Scout handkerchiefs.
Or these lovely fans. They seem rather commonplace nowadays, But in 1979 they were SO cool.
The shuttle cocks are still in the box – what in the world did we do with the paddle?
She also gave us a kimono, which I think Desna wore often during college. It came with these shoes, which were a bitch to walk in. Plus, even back then, they were way too small for my feet.
There was lots of silly fun stuff, like toothpicks, umbrellas, rice paper balloons, origami paper and instructions, etc.
But the number one most important thing that was in that box, that I despaired I would never see again, was my old Girl Scout vest. I can tell it doesn’t have everything on it, and I obviously didn’t earn anywhere near the amount of stuff I remember earning. And we made them ourselves, so it is a little crooked and the cheap fabric has pilled and stained. But this is such a wonderful link to something important from my past, my present, and in my future.