Girl Scouts turned 100 today.
Girl Scouting was a fundamental shaper in the person I’ve become, so I’m compelled to share a few memories — and hilarious photos.
As a kid, camp was a trial run at independence. A few short days spent in the woods close to home, holding a flashlight in one hand and my nose in the other in the spider-filled latrines. Then a week or two in the northern woods of Wisconsin, where we’d sing over the calls of loons in the night. My mom used to send me with candy to help me make friends with girls on the bus during the eight hour ride up. (Because everyone wants to sit with the girl packing treats, right?)
I’d always come back changed in some way, and come back with new ideas (sometimes about nose rings and eating baby food as a snack, like my counselors). It was a chance to be a little bit wild, to live as a girl outside of time and city.
Most girls only stayed in through Brownies, or a year or two of Juniors. Girl Scouting stopped being cool when sports and boys and those sorts of things entered the picture. I was never very cool. And my mom was the leader, so I was in for life. I remember selling cookies in the freezing cold outside of the video store in high school, and being mildly mortified when people I knew (OK, people I had a crush on) would see me. It taught me hard work. We collected cans and turned them in for spare change so we could take trips to places like Mackinac Island and … Cleveland. We were Troop Beverly Hills, with braces.
In high school, I had an after school job in the council shop, selling badges and whatnot. Sometimes I’d even dress in historic uniforms and give presentations from the persona of Juliette Low, Girl Scouts’ founder. And then things started to get truly fantastic. Through the Wider Ops program, I spent a week backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains with instructors from Outward Bound.
I flew to Germany by myself the month after graduating high school for a three week tour of Europe that involved hiking in the Alps (an experience I re-created with Joe for our honeymoon!) and crewing a sailboat with other Scouts from all over the world. Thanks to Girl Scouts, I have a stamp from Liechtenstein in my passport and the courage to push myself to experience adventures.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked as a counselor at a camp in Colorado. I went by the camp name “Ripple.” I lost a llama. My walk to work every day passed a field of horses. I got helicoptered out of the wilderness. A rodent ate my sleeping bag while I was climbing Pike’s Peak. I had close encounters with bears while carrying pizza supplies. It was the most random, story-filled summer of my life. And I owe it to Girl Scouts.
Because of Girl Scouts: I’m more creative, more outdoorsy, more open, more hardworking, more loyal, more generous. Thanks to my mom for encouraging me to stay in it and for showing me what it means to be a leader. Happy Birthday to all of the Girl Scouts out there!