Being as I had an older sister, and my mother was a Brownie leader, I was a Girl Scout at the tender age of 4. Back in the days before Mini Scouts existed, I was considered the troop mascot. There were very few things I didn't do with the older girls. Meetings were held in our house and for quite a long time the "fly up" ceremonies were held in our backyard. The troop n umber was 1309 and I think we were in Service Unit 4.
If there is any question of the impression Girl Scouting can make on a child, that is evidence that it can last a lifetime! For me and my sister both, Girl Scouting lasted through the 12th grade. We both loved the camping, field trips, and meetings with our friends. For me, it was great because I went to a number of different schools, but the Girl Scouts were consistent. Once I entered Junior High and didn't have to change schools until High School, it was different, but I stuck with it. Part of the reason I could is that my troop by that point - a Cadet troop - was in a different school district.
I had a bit of difficulty with my peers (who doesn't?) and felt very awkward and unaccepted. Looking back I realize there is probably some truth and some insecure falsity to that. Anyway, I loved Girl Scouting in a different school district because those girls didn't know that everyone picked on me! They accepted me for who I was, for better or worse. While I definitely had friends at school who also accepted me as I was (Diane B, I see you out there!), it somehow built up my sense of self to just relax and not pretend to be someone I wasn't.
While working on the never-ending garage cleaning project - which by the way I can confidently say will end by 2013 - I found my old badge sash with 25-30 year old insignia and a packet of other badges that never were sewn onto it. My friend Donna is going to try to get me the missing pieces of my insignia, and then, I think I want to put this together somehow that I can display it, along with the patches from my old patch jacket. I'm quite proud of my accomplishments as a Girl Scout, and proud of the fact that Girl Scouts helped me become the woman I am today. I will probably be a Girl Scout leader if Melody wants to be a Scout. I will happily take her camping and teach her how to make s'mores and sing songs like I'm A Little Piece Of Tin.
As an aside, I always admired the Senior girls who came to the local Sing-A-Long and actually knew ALL the words to the various Girl Scout songs. Wow, to have that memory, I thought! Now I'm the one who will be teaching them, I'm sure. I can still remember all the words to My Name is Ricardo and Fried Ham, Fried Ham. Should I forget, I can call on my sister, mother, friend Sarah, or of course, the Internet.
My sister earned First Class (the equivalent to an Eagle Scout) the last year they were offered, and after that the project was split into two separate awards - Gold Award and Silver Award. I felt a little discouraged and decided not to pursue it. Double the work for a less special award. It sounded so impressive to say "she's First Class" but not so much "I'm Silver Award."
I will have more Girl Scouting memories to share in the future - it was 12 years after all!
Christmas is definitely the time for memories!
Back in 1939, my Grammie Hennie was just a relatively new mom with three small kids. She went down to Montgomery Wards one day, and they were giving away copies of their new Christmas story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Being who she was, she surely took a few copies, because our family motto of "if one is good, two is better" had to start somewhere. She might have read this new story to her own three kids.
Years later, she gave a copy of this story to my parents. Being fond of tradition, it became a ritual that every year my mom would read us the story of Rudolph before bed on Christmas Eve. I can not remember now if the hanging of stockings came before or after the reading. As the years wore on, the little book became more and more fragile. I can recall one year my sister carrying the book on a fancy pillow, partly in mock ceremony and partly in reverence, I'm sure.
My mother worked for a large company with numerous resources available to her, and she made a good quality photo copy of the book. Granted, it was black & white. Color copies were not around until 1990. We were each given a photo copy to color and I remember it being tedious work, because of course, I was a perfectionist and I wanted it to look as close to the original as possible.
Now the book has found its way to my home, and though I won't be using the original, I plan to read the real story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to Melody on Christmas Eve. I made high quality scans of the book, and I will have to put it away in archival quality storage. The old paper is terribly yellowed, brown in some respects, and the pictures of facing pages have created ghost-images of themselves on their opposite page from the high acid in the inks used way back when.
Since it will be a long time before this book finds a new family home, I took the liberty of sending a copy on to the Hall family, our closest friends. Burke and Cassidy are just the right age to begin enjoying the story of Rudolph, and I hope they find a tradition in there for their family too.
Happy 70th birthday, Rudolph. You are still bringing Christmas joy to every girl and boy!
Jenny's blog Gray Hairs and Teddy Bears got me thinking about Christmas trees. Jenny has a "live" tree that is already drooping and dropping needles. One of her readers pointed out that it was probably cut back in October, stored in a refrigerated truck, then put out for sale in late November. It doesn't take a botanist to figure out what is causing her tree to wilt so quickly.
For the past three years, we have had a fake tree. I really dislike fake trees. They just look......fake. Even the high quality ones look like oversized pipe cleaners sticking out of a central pole. I resisted as long as possible, but what did it for me was the idea of being 7 1/2 months pregnant, on all fours trying to water the Christmas tree, with the dog poking his nose where it doesn't belong. I bought a fake one at Lowe's. Pre-lit.
As soon as is humanly possible for me, I'm going to start getting real trees again, and hopefully by that time, Orange Countians will still be able to find live trees to cut. Because, you see, the best kind of live tree is one that is fresh cut. Going to pick out the Christmas tree was a family activity on the day after Thanksgiving. That's the first day you could go reserve them and get a good one.
We would trek out in the Ford de jour to a local place, under the high wires most likely, pull into the mud and gravel parking lot, then walk out into the stands of trees. Close to the parking lot there always seemed to be a forest in miniature with pine saplings no more than two feet high just dreaming of their future in someone's living room. We liked Monterrey Pines. Their long needles are soft and lush and fairly easy to hang ornaments on, they are hardy and homey.
The chill of the air, the smell of the pine needles and sap, the squish of mud beneath our tennies...these are all great memories to me. It seemed we would spend a long time finding a tree that didn't lean too much to one side or the other, didn't have a hole in one side, or didn't lack the lovely a-line shape of the perfect Christmas tree. We'd circle two or three, my mom viewing all angles. Our living room set up demanded that the tree be attractive from all sides; we couldn't just stick the hole in a corner. Finally we'd settle on one, tear the ticket and go pay for it. It was ours!
Two weeks before Christmas, we went back and had our tree cut, and that is a great bunch of smells too. There's the pine sap, sawdust, gas from the chain saw, and the sweat of the young bucks working there. My parents liked the tree flocked, I suppose as a tribute to their Eastern US upbringings. It took me a long time to connect that the flocking was supposed to simulate snow. I didn't care for the flocking much because it was sticky, smelled weird and I thought it didn't look natural. Most tree farms would flock the tree for us, and the back of the Ford de jour would be lined with an old sheet to keep the flocking from sticking. Some years my dad flocked the tree himself. That might have been the years we grew our own trees.
Dad ran wires from the tree trunk to the bannister to keep the tree from tipping over, and we draped the tree stand with foil then a white sheet. Once it was set up, it was time to get into the crawl space and pull back the dusty plastic sheets that covered luggage and the boxes of Christmas decorations. The boxes were what you'd expect - old shipping boxes, May Co. or Broadway boxes - with all our precious decorations stored within for 11 months of the year. I can still remember the dusty plastic smell and my poor sister sneezing from it. My sister and I, along with my mother would carry them down to the living room and set them out for excavation. Dad would put on the lights (old school ones with the star reflectors) and Mom would put on the three long strands of glass bead garland (red, white and blue). Then my sister and I would reverently decorate the tree.
Once the family project was finished, we knew we had the perfect tree.
For about a minute of my life, in the 5th grade, my best gal pal was named Patrice. I don't recall now what her last name was. She wanted to be called 'Trice, but her mom always called her by her full name. She was a girl raised by parents who were older, and I realize now they were probably alcoholics and they were certainly heavy smokers. But for me, Patrice was fun. We were both awkward socially and so, we bonded on that point. She had a cute fluffy little white dog that might have been a poodle or a cockapoo. I used to walk or ride my skate board to her house, which was a little over a mile from mine. She must have been smart because I think she was in the advanced class with me. I didn't have many other close friends at that school, so I can't think of any other way I could have met her.
Being smart did not preclude a questionable childhood surrounded by weird friends of her parents and did not necessarily include a financially stable life. Patrice lived in an unincorporated part of Santa Ana, just behind a fronting of little houses built in the 40s or 50s. Back there, they could still have horses though, and it was like stepping into a rural retreat once you rounded the corner to her street. It's hard to imagine today there being stables in the middle of a Santa Ana neighborhood, even lots with a house and a stable, with actual horses and chickens, but it's true. It was a quiet, dark and shady place with large trees, that smelled like soil and horses, manure and car oil. There's a garish church that was built where a little home with a white board fence once had been. It had acted as a sort of gateway or mile marker into that forgotten little corner of town. The church is hideous, in my opinion, but the little home was a ramshackle abandoned wreck by the time it was torn down, so it's likely the better of the two abodes.
To help out the family, Patrice wandered around town collecting bottles. Eventually they turned them in at the liquor store for cash, or maybe liquor. I don't know. Looking back I don't know really what drew me to her. I found a picture of her recently and it reminded me she was boy crazy and wanted to grow up fast and get out of her house. She was the type of girl I'm sure my parents dreaded I would turn into.
One thing she did teach me about during our brief friendship was that bottles were worth money - maybe it was 5 cents per bottle. I had never even considered this type of a transaction before knowing this girl. Some hot days, if we didn't have much to do, and Patrice had already collected "enough" bottles for her family, we would go scrounge bottles until we came up with enough for two cones of ice cream from Thrifty Drug Store over on Harbor Blvd. It was near the Zody's - a store I never went in for some reason. Anyway, to this day, I can remember collecting those bottles...the smell of the warm day on a part of town that was not shiney and clean, the sun on my neck, the weight of the bag with the bottles in it, and the stink of the icky guy at the liquor store who changed them out for us...but even more, the taste of that mint chip ice cream. Sigh...... Pure heaven!
I attended high school at Los Amigos in Orange County from 1983-1987. It was, at times, an enjoyable experience. I was quite tall, taller than all the girls in my school until a freshman came along who was taller and a lot less coordinated than me, so sadly for her she garnered a lot of the teasing from that point onward. I was also quite curvaceous but didn't have a lot of confidence, so I slouched a lot. My friends thought I was fat - I weighed 150 pounds at 5' 11". Um, I was skinny, but I believed them, since they all were 5' 2" and 105. I was naïve, not realizing that while some girls were being friendly to my face, they were not-so-subtly making fun of me behind my back. I desperately wanted to fit in with the "in crowd" but I also wanted to be friends with, well, my friends, who were the math geeks, Key Club members and A students. I was just like so many other girls across America.
A large number of the girls who had been my peers for several grades became cheerleaders or drill team members. That was SO not my bag. I was a little bit of a sport-o. Over the course of three years, I played JV volleyball, JV and Varsity basketball, Varsity badminton, and ran Varsity cross country. I did most of this so I could get out of P.E. because I hated getting all sweaty doing whatever it was we had to do and then going back to class icky. Often times I had better conversations with my coaches than some of my teammates. It was difficult being an intellectual among the jocks.
Here I am as a sophomore Varsity center. Just look at that crazy curly hair!!
Junior Varsity vs FVHS, they killed us, but just look at my perfect form!
I liked Depeche Mode, Oingo Boingo, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Billy Idol and Paul Young. I tied an old piece of muslin in my hair Madonna-style and wore my slacks rolled up at the hems with white dance shoes and no socks. MTV was my radio, and after school we literally ran home to watch General Hospital. I recall a group of my sister's friends coming to our house, because we were the closest to school, and screaming "Ice Princess!!!" at the television during the critical moment Luke and Laura were to defeat the Cassadine's.
For two years one of my closest friends was Cindy Wilcox, who I recently found on Facebook, and who I am so delighted to be back in contact with! We had so much fun in high school, she made me forget a lot about the awkward parts. Once we went to some school dance that was a toga theme and she wore a bed sheet with yellow flowers on it. Cindy had a way of looking at life in a very positive manner and I took on this optimism too. It's a lot nicer to believe the best in people than to expect the worst.
I was terrible at math, failing Algebra and Geometry, excelled at English and History (no surprise there!), and of course sports, and considered becoming a teacher because of the example set by my sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Morin. I'll never forget her coming into class and telling us our next essay was based on an idea that had come to her in the shower that morning: 1984, Should We Hope or Mope?
I went to one reunion, but don't plan on going to others. The one I went to consisted of the same cliques, the same guy was still completely stoned, the same bully was still pushing around the same gay guy, and the same girls were still oozing out of their tight dresses. I wish them all well and I hope they are happy with their lives. My memories of high school aren't all wonderful, but they aren't all terrible either. Time has worn down the sharp edges and once in a while I polish up my rose colored glasses for a walk down memory lane.