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My Little Grrrl Scout

The old school I used to work for had a week long camping trip every fall to kick off the school year.  The students started going on the camping trip when they were in sixth grade.  On the second night of the trip, there was a special ceremony attended by seventh and eighth graders.  It was a “secret” ceremony that the kids waited for years to get to attend.  Even though I have no loyalty to that old school, I still have never told anyone what happened during the ceremony once you reached the campfire.  It really felt like a sacred space.

Once it started getting dark, a few teachers would drift away to set up while the kids finished up their activities.  And then, when the signal was given, the seventh and eighth grade students would separate out from the rest and gather to be led — without flashlights — into the woods.  It was the same path that you walked dozens of times during the day, so you had a sense of what the ground looked like, but it was still unnerving to walk through the woods — silently — with dozens of students for about twenty minutes.  It feels a bit like being lost in space after a certain point.

And then you’d reach a path of tea lights that spiraled like a maze, and you’d walk through this to reach the campfire and the ceremony.  Even writing about this makes me cry.  It is hard to explain how moved I was at my first ceremony.  I had been asked to walk towards the front of the group as the newest teacher, and by the time I reached the spiral of lights, I had been timidly walking in pitch blackness for a good twenty minutes, my heart pounding, all the students taking this moment very very seriously.  And suddenly you come to this gorgeous path of light, and it’s lined with all these teachers who were welcoming you into not only the ceremony, but the fiber of the school itself.  And I just sobbed, as did many of the kids.

I didn’t just cry the first year — I cried every single year.  It is this moment when you realize that you are part of something so much larger than yourself.  That I was a teacher, shaping the lives of these students, in the sort of school where children spent their entire pre-college education.  It was like joining a family that had a 75-year history and hundreds of alumni.  Sure, after a few years when the board fired the headmaster and the school went into turmoil, it became a dysfunctional family where I wouldn’t send my own children.  But it was a family, nonetheless.  And because they chose me, I belonged.

I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurve me some pomp and circumstance.  I’m a sucker for ceremony.  Slap “secret” in front of it and my body practically goes into quivers.

Last Wednesday was World Thinking Day, a girl scout-created holiday where girl scouts around the world come together to cogitate on a problem and come up with a solution.  Most troops celebrate the day on the weekend, either the one before or the one after.  This year’s problem is the impact our lifestyle is having on the planet and ways we can lessen our burden on the earth.  Our troop is working on presenting ideas for water conservation.  They’re first graders, so the solutions are along the lines of turning off the water while you brush your teeth as well as trying to figure out a way to utilize animal urine. (Have to say, this never occurred to me, but once the girl suggested it, I was like, “hells yeah, the future of usable water is in animal urine.”  Not sure how to make this happen, but it sounded pretty damn brilliant for six years old.)

Girl Scouts receive their World Trefoil pin at their first Thinking Day, whatever age that occurs.  The pin symbolizes their inclusion in the world girl scouting organization and connects them to every other girl scout in the world.

I dug out my World Trefoil pin for the occasion because this weekend, my little ChickieNob is going to get pinned.

There are plenty of places where the ChickieNob belongs to something larger than herself, but this is the first time that she chose the group.  We picked Judaism for her.  We picked where she lives.  And being born into twinship is something outside her control.  But she chose to become a girl scout, take the pledge, and work to make the world a better place, filled with lanyards and sit-upons.  In doing so, she becomes part of this large whole, with a 100-year history and millions of alumni.

And moreover, like a first period or a Bat Mitzvah, the ceremony is like a little tea light welcoming her into womanhood.  Sure, she has a long way to go until she can figure out how to turn animal urine into a sustainable water source, but pinning that trefoil onto her uniform feels like a little nod, like I’m recognizing that one day, we’ll be two old girls together.  Perhaps more two old grrrls than two old girls, with our matching steel-toed Doc Martens and Wonder Woman t-shirts.  Punk rock and zines.  But women, nonetheless.

Even if you’re not a girl scout (but especially if you are), please help me to welcome the ChickieNob into the sisterhood.  Pass along any words you have on being a girl — advice or good thoughts.

Congratulations, ChickieNob.  I am so proud of you.  I hope that central vein of the trefoil always serves as a compass, guiding you to making the best decisions for yourself and the world around you.  You are a funny, smart, sassy, weird, wonderful, creative, beautiful, caring person.  Don’t ever lose that, my sweet grrrl.


1 Jo { 02.26.12 at 7:31 am }

The best way I can think of to welcome you, dearest ChickieNob, to this sorority of sisters is by sending the biggest virtual hug I can. Though you likely cannot imagine yet how fantastically amazing it is, I can assure you that womanhood in the 21st century will be better than it ever has been before. And if you are anything like your mother (which I suspect you are), you will leave it even better than you found it. I have no doubt that you, my girl, have all the capabilities of changing the world. Never, ever, ever doubt your ability to make things happen. And never, ever, ever doubt how very special, unique, and wonderful you are, simply because you are YOU. Being a girl rocks — but being you rocks even harder.

Much love,

2 RelaxedNoMore { 02.26.12 at 8:36 am }

What a lovely story, with the ceremony.

And a big Scout’s salute to ChickieNob! And you as well, Mel!

3 Her Royal Fabulousness { 02.26.12 at 9:10 am }

Congrats to your girl!

Please tell her that there will be times when others (especially other girls) might feel more like an enemy than an ally (I’m thinking age 11-18). At those times, hang onto your own sense of self and kindness, knowing that those times will pass. Eventually other women will once again become a circle of support, for one reason or another.

4 BigP's Heather { 02.26.12 at 9:27 am }

I was a Girl Scout for ten years and I learned so many valuable lessons. Knife safety, fire starting, friend making, how to sell (and EAT) delicious cookies, to work hard, never give up, how to cook unconventionally (pineapple upside down cake in a tuna can, burying meat in a box in the sun, etc), and that each girl is different and equally important in making each troop wonderful. I could go on…

I hope you have as many amazing experiences in this wonderful Sisterhood that I did….and many, many more.

5 Balancing Act { 02.26.12 at 10:00 am }

I was a girl scout myself and I just loved it, I hope to introduce my girls to it as well.

6 A.M.S { 02.26.12 at 10:39 am }

Learn the correct way to use real tools. I mean the big, heavy ones in Home Depot, not the pink and purple lightweight ones that will fall apart the first time you tackle replacing a broken toilet or changing the brake pads in your car. Oh, and learn how to do things like that or at least where to find out how to do things like that or how to talk to the person you need to hire to do it. Trust me, the feeling you get after fixing something all by yourself by following the steps in a book or online is fantastic! And there is something hugely satisfying about wielding a powerful drill or a circular saw or a big, drop-forged steel wrench.

Have a really good comeback for those times someone tells you you can’t do that because you are a girl. And share it with me, because I haven’t come up with one yet, but I do make sure to go ahead and do it, if it is something I REALLY want to do and I make sure to do my absolute best at it.

Know that it is your right to be a girly girl one day and a tomboy the next. As long as you are following your heart and hurting no one, go for it!

7 Christina { 02.26.12 at 11:41 am }

Congrats ChickieNob! I remember when I got pinned, years and years ago. Some of the best times I had were during Scout activities or camping trips. I still have my vest and sash and jacket with all my patches. Definitely do your best to earn as many as you can, in the activities/categories you enjoy.

As for being a woman, the best advice I can give is to be yourself, do what you want and don’t let anyone tell you that you can because you’re female. Grrl Power.

8 Kathy { 02.26.12 at 2:01 pm }

Welcome and congrats to you ChickieNob!

I was also a Brownie and then a Girl Scout years ago. My son is now a Cub Scout and I look forward to when my daughter hopefully also chooses to become a Girl Scout.

I wish you the best on your journey helping to make the world a better place through Girl Scouts and other endeavors you try in your life. From what your mom has told us about you, I believe you have so much to offer your community, the Girl Scouts and our world.

I have happy memories of scouting, including doing projects, earn badges for my sash and camping trips. Those cookies are pretty yummy too!

I will sing the Girl Scout song in your honor today:

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”

I hope that you make and keep many wonderful friendships through scouting as well.

9 katie { 02.26.12 at 2:04 pm }

Do your best!

(The meaning of the World Badge is explained here:


10 Becky { 02.26.12 at 8:55 pm }

This was a beautiful post! Totally made me tear up. I’m totally with you on the ceremony thing. I cry at those kind of things every time. I never really have been able to identify why, but I think you hit the nail on the head for me. It’s because of the feeling of belonging. It’s something we all want/need. And to have such a tangible way of expressing it simply moves me.

I don’t know that I have any better words of wisdom/welcome than those offered by others. Except maybe this – be who you are. There are times when it will be scary and others will make you doubt it. Listen to that quiet part of your soul. It will remind you when you think you’re lost. Welcome to the sisterhood 🙂

11 a { 02.26.12 at 10:34 pm }

Congratulations, Chickienob! I hope being a Girl Scout brings you many rich experiences and lots of great friends!

12 Jessie { 02.27.12 at 12:14 am }

Congratulations, ChickieNob! Know that there will be times when people try to make you into what they want you to be. This can come from friends, enemies, and everyone in between. There will be times when you want to follow them and times when you just want to fit in and times when you don’t want to do either one. When you think about changing yourself, think about why you want to change, who the change will really benefit, and what will be lost with the change. Some changes are good, helping us to find who we are and to develop new qualities within ourselves. However, it can be difficult at times to tell those apart from the changes that benefit others and hurt us in the long run. Please, think before you alter yourself.

13 April { 02.27.12 at 8:30 am }

Welcome from a former scout. I was a Girl Scout for 12 years and then helped as an assistant leader in my sister’s troop until she was no longer in scout. I learned many things hrough scouting and made many friends. I hope ChickieNob enjoys it as much as I did.

14 Chickenpig { 02.27.12 at 8:36 am }

YEAH!!! Go Chickienob! I have a little more faith in the future with you in the world. 🙂

15 mijk { 02.27.12 at 8:48 am }

Big left handshake from one gilr scout to the other!

16 Gil { 02.27.12 at 10:34 am }

Welcome to Girl Scouts Chickienob! I was a girl scout many years ago and I hope to introduce my own daughter to the movement. It was amazing to have week-long camping trips, learn to canoe, do crafts, participate in a huge sing-a-long around the campfire and so many other amazing things.

One bit of advice that I learned in girl scouts, that will always see you through is, “Be Prepared.” If you are prepared to handle anything that life throws at you, then you are ready to tackle stuff head on and not hide or run away, even when things get difficult. Prepare yourself for the good or the bad by thinking things through and having some idea of how to handle situations. And good luck! I hope you enjoy working on your badges!

17 Tiara { 02.27.12 at 1:51 pm }

Congratulations, Chickienob!

My advice to you is to listen to everything your Mom says. She is very wise. I always thought I knew better than my Mom or that my Mom didn’t know what she was talking about. Turns out she was right about just about everything!

18 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.27.12 at 5:06 pm }

I’m enchanted by the visual of a “gorgeous path of light” leading us into or out of something.

ChickNob: Remember always to know and value what YOU think about something, over and above what your peers think about something. Esepcially about you.

19 loribeth { 02.29.12 at 10:46 am }

Sadly, I never was a Girl Guide/Scout. There weren’t any troops to be found in the very small communities where I lived at the right ages, & when we finally moved to a town where there was one, I was 14 & feeling a little old for Girl Guides. But I was involved in all sort of organized activities, from clubs at school to 4-H & church groups outside, and I met lots of great people and learned so much as a result.

And I guess that would be my advice to you, ChickieNob: Definitely, be an individual — but stay connected to something bigger than yourself — your family, for sure — but a faith community, a service group, volunteer work…

20 Bea { 03.01.12 at 8:09 am }

Oh, I am so glad she is getting into guiding (scouting). Welcome, C! I have fond memories of the whole social dynamic of girl guides, also of docs and punk. I will have to remember that tea light thing for my next secret ceremony.


21 Bea { 03.01.12 at 8:13 am }

Also, the animal urine thing is not bad. They already recycle human waste for the municipal water supply, and one of the chief complaints is that you can’t enforce a “withholding period” for drugs taken by a whole city of human beings, but you could do that with animals same as you do for meat and milk. The biggest issue I see is the expense of collection. We already collect human sewerage, so it’s no extra expense. However, you’d have to put a whole new thing in place for animals, especially if you wanted the benefit of withholding periods.



22 Emily { 03.01.12 at 12:50 pm }

This post brought back so many girl scout memories. Congratulations ChickieNob and welcome!

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