by Elise Seyfried
It’s Girl Scout cookie time again! I personally never eat a Thin Mint without reminiscing about Scout Days, my own and my children’s. Given that they inherited my genes, it’s no big surprise that the little Seyfrieds bombed out of Scouting. We were, all of us, seduced by the spiffy uniforms. We were, none of us, prepared for the badges and the great effort needed to earn them. Or the cookies/popcorn and the great effort needed to sell them. Darn those spiffy uniforms!
My one and only year as a Girl Scout, I was in fourth grade and still living in New York City. By April, my sash was still bare, while my fellow GS’s busily sewed ’em on at quite a clip. Not only did I not earn any badges, even if I had, there was no one to sew them on; my mom Joanie proved that the day she subbed for our regular Scout leader at a meeting. We were working on a joint sewing project, and the fabric was spread across our laps. Mom chatted animatedly as her needle plunged in and out. At snack time she arose with the entire cloth sewed securely to her skirt.
My other memory involves our “campout” — in Brooklyn. We were staying in some park that had a large cabin; outside, the big city bustled. When it came time to forage for sustenance, we ventured out, compasses in hand, until we reached Gristede’s supermarket. We marched in (teamwork!) and surveyed the wilderness for edibles, which turned out to be Ring Dings and Coke. Even in fourth grade, that seemed a little lame, so that was pretty much it for me.
Years later, our sons Sheridan and Evan both decided to try Cub Scouts, and good sport Dad was one of their leaders. My husband Steve endured a series of meetings where the little hooligans raced around making ungodly noises, as the adults vainly attempted to restore order. The kids were worse at their campout — much worse. The bonfire? A great chance to play with flaming sticks! In the end, Steve decided he’d rather take his own, relatively well-behaved boys camping than babysit for a bunch of zoo animals. Farewell, Cubs!
Our daughter Rose and son PJ (Patrick Joseph) skipped Scouts entirely. Rose had a brief — very brief — stint as a YMCA Indian Princess. This was a program for fathers and daughters, and I thought it’d be a great bonding experience for Rosie and Steve. We soon discovered three things. 1) Little girls can match the boys in the hooligan department. When the meeting was held at our house, the princesses all thought it would be fun to climb on the bathroom sink, the better to see their lovely reflections in the mirror, I guess.
Not surprisingly, the entire sink crashed to the floor. Which brings me to 2) Disappearing Dads. Where were the dads that night? After all, the sink disaster happened on their watch! They were in the family room, totally engrossed in sports talk. Finally, 3) Timing is Everything. 90% of the Indian Princess Fun Activities (ice skating, bowling, etc.) were scheduled on days when Steve had theatrical performances and couldn’t make it at all. Needless to say, Rose was NOT happy royalty.
Julie wanted, badly, to be a Brownie. It was a tough year. The mother-daughter campout ended in tears and recriminations, as one of the girls stole a trinket from another’s suitcase (there were witnesses) and refused to fess up — and the mother refused to believe that her precious offspring was in the wrong. When cookie time rolled around, we were assigned to the Willow Grove Mall to sell Tagalongs and Do-si-dos, assisted by a particularly obnoxious mom and her child. This woman screamed at the girls, ordering them to follow all the people who passed our table and beg them to buy. You can imagine how endearing this was to the poor passersby. Longest few hours of my life. Shortly after that, Julie hung up her beanie for good.
Soon, Parish Hall at church will be packed with young Scouts racing their little homemade cars in the Pinewood Derby. There will be whoops and hollers and fun aplenty, I’m sure. Every few years we know a teenager who makes it all the way to Eagle Scout, and I realize this is a major achievement. This program clearly works for some families. But not for us. And you know what? We’re all OK anyway. We may never get a badge in bugling, or “pulp and paper,”or first aid.
But we can still eat the cookies, right?
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children as well as of her self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus, based on her life as a mom and church worker. The book can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com. (Also from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble bn.com, although they add an extra charge.)