One of my favorite activities during grade school was being a Girl Scout. I went to a very large Catholic grade school, so becoming a Brownie, and later, a Girl Scout, was a great way to be with friends in a smaller group. I had a very nice leader, and we met at her house one afternoon a week. We worked on badges, sold cookies, and went camping at a lodge once a year. Great fun, and wonderful memories. The only challenging part was the once a year gathering of all the troops in the school parking lot, where the overall school coordinator was in charge. I think she had been in the women’s army corps during WWII, because she had a scout uniform and had us marching around in our uniforms. It must have been a sight. But overall, scouting was a good experience.
When my oldest daughter started first grade, she joined a Brownie troop, and later became a Girl Scout too. I helped with the troop starting in about fifth grade, and the leader was a good match for me because she did a lot of camping and was familiar with the camps and lodges the local council owned. That troop was very “outdoorsy”. We not only camped in lodges, she convinced me to come along for platform tent camping one frigid fall weekend. It was the first time I had slept in a tent, and while I enjoyed it, I struggled with the outhouses. But a good time was had by all, and I appreciated my indoor plumbing a lot when I got home.
When my younger daughter joined Brownies, I once again volunteered to help. Apparently I was the only one, and so by default became the leader. Luckily another mom agreed to chair the cookie sales, and we had a pact to stay active as long as the other one was on board. We ended up selling a lot of cookies every year, and that was fortunate since a major trip was in our future. But first a few funny stories.
I remember having about six girls in my van on the way home from a scouting activity. The radio was on, and the dj was talking about what he wore to bed at night- in his case, pajamas. The girls then decided to share with me what each of their father’s wore, or in some cases didn’t wear, to bed. I never knew so many middle aged dads went commando in the evening, if they were telling the truth. I also tried to change the subject several times, but to no avail. It was months before I could make eye contact with some of the dads at school events.
Another memorable trip was camping at one of the scout lodges. I was in charge of making the camp fire, and it was a first for me. If you read the blog regularly you will know that I spent all of my summers playing in tennis tournaments, so I never went to summer camp. But I knew we needed a fire to make smores, so I had my instruction book from the scout office, my kindling, and logs ready to go. The girls stood by with their graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows and growing skepticism as I fumbled along. But I did eventually get the fire going, we had our smores, and I didn’t have to use the back up toaster smores I brought along. Crises avoided.
When the girls got older, and busier with sports and other activties, it was hard to find time for scouts. So the cookie mom and I came up with an idea for the girls- we suggested they plan a trip and raise money as a troop to pay for it. We would spend two years planning it, and sell as many cookies as possible to pay for it. The goal was to have enough money for each troop member and her mom to participate, and that food, lodging, and gas money would come from the troop’s account.
The next step was to choose the destination. The girls unanimously chose Mall of America, and it worked out quite well. It was within driving distance from Nebraska, and we had several volunteers who had vans and could drive. We made a budget, and the girls set goals for cookie sales to cover the costs. After two years of planning and selling cookies, we had enough money to make the trip. The fact that our troop would travel to a mall did elicit some comments, mostly from former Boy Scout dads, along the lines of “What kind of scout troop goes to a mall?” Well, ours does! It also created a stir with another troop of girls the same age at our school, who heard about our trip and then planned one, also to Mall of America, but at a different time.
So on a warm spring day when there was a break from school, we loaded up our minivans and set out for the mall. Two moms and four girls per van was a perfect ratio. I wasn’t in the lead because of my legendarily bad sense of direction, (see prior post here https://funnynana.com/2021/04/05/help-for-the-directionally-challenged/,) so it was an uneventful trip to Minnesota, and we arrived at our hotel. It had an atrium, a free breakfast buffet, and elevators the girls loved to ride. If you have ever travelled with middle school aged girls, you will know that going to sleep at a reasonable hour isn’t their strong suit. There were lots of giggles and attempts to leave one room and visit another, but this wasn’t our first rodeo in terms of chaperoning. It took awhile, but once we got everyone settled in, several hours of slumber occurred. And the next day, we were ready for our first foray to the mall.
We ate at the Rainforest Cafe, and went to the indoor amusement park they had complete with a ferris wheel and other rides. And of course some shopping occurred. Two funny things happened as we shopped. My credit card kept getting denied. This had never happened to me before, and after three or four times, I finally asked the store manager to call the card company ( pre cell phone days), and let me talk to them. They said it was because of atypical charge activity, but once we had a chat all was well. And one of the other moms, who had recently gotten a very short haircut, kept being called “sir” when she was paying for her merchandise. We laughed a lot about all of this, but it did slow our day down unnecessarily.
The last day we were in Minnesota was a Sunday, so we took the girls to mass at a lovely church near the mall, and then hit the road back home. Most of the girls slept on this portion of the trip, and we pulled into Omaha in time to get everyone home and ready for school the next day.
The mall trip was planned to coincide with their last year in scouts, so as the school year drew to a close, so did our troop. I am not sure how the ensuing years have gone by so quickly, but they certainly have. The girls have all grown up, and gone on to full lives of their own. I hope they have fond memories of our troop, all of our badges and activities, and of course, the infamous trip to the mall. It was a great way to end our years together.