When he was very young, long before I met him, my husband was in Boy Scouts, for several years I think. This means he can tie special knots and survive in the woods. It also means he sometimes says odd things like, “Look at that cool beetle.” or, “I made this toilet paper holder using only a pencil and some string.” or, “We should go camping sometime.” (I am not making any of those up.)
I am not equipped to properly respond to any of these statements, so I will usually just pretend I didn’t hear them and hope he forgets they were said.
I, on the other hand, was a Brownie, but only for about ten minutes or so.
I came to Brownies late in the game, somewhere well into the third grade. It was a bid for popularity, pure and simple. Every Wednesday at lunchtime, all the cool girls changed into their awesome brown dresses and orange scarves and little pouches with quarters in, and they wore them for the rest of the school day and then got to leave school fifteen minutes early to walk to the community centre to do mysterious cool things with the other Brownies from other schools. I was green, I tell you. I wanted a brown dress too!
So I asked my mom. Her response was something along the lines of, “Are you sure? I was in Brownies and they made us make beds.” But I would not be dissuaded. So my mom signed me up.
It was not all that my eight-year-old mind had dreamed of.
First off, I didn’t get the cool brown dress. You don’t get that until you’ve been initiated or something. You just get a lame brown apron. It was humiliating. (They still want your quarters though.)
Then there was all the owl and fairy stuff. It seemed sort of normal at the time, because when you’re eight you assume that anything adults put together is normal and you just didn’t know about it yet, but in retrospect maybe it was a bit weird. My memories of this are vague, but if they’re still doing that stuff, I’d say those parents who are up in arms over Harry Potter might want to have a closer look at the Brownies.
I’m pretty sure we danced around and chanted to a wooden mushroom with an owl on it. We had little fairy groups – I was in the Pixies – and each group had their own little chant that you had to memorize. I would think they were training us to become little pagans for some reason, but then I believe we also regularly pledged allegiance to God and the Queen. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but throw in fairy and mushroom worship and you’ve got an odd mix on your hands.
There was talk of a camping trip. Now I had learned at a young age — courtesy of my camping enthusiast father — that I am not a camping kind of girl, so I just kept “forgetting” to bring home the permission slip until it was too late. (This was a method of passive resistance that I employed many times through my school years. It was extremely effective.) I can’t remember anything else we did in Brownies, besides that I got only one patch in the month or two that I went; it was a craft patch for making a small yarn pom-pom.
At the end of third grade, you were supposed to leave Brownies and go to Guides. (Blue dresses!) There was a ceremony called “Flying Up” or something like that. However, because I was not a real Brownie, what with my crappy apron and all (or maybe because I hadn’t earned enough patches, I don’t recall), I could go to Guides, being the right age, but would not be allowed to fly up. I had to walk up instead. That sounded just too mortifying, so I skipped the ceremony and never went back.
Call me a quitter. Maybe I am. As a result, I never learned any knots or woodsy skills or first aid or whatever my friends got taught. In any sort of survival situation, you should work on the assumption that I will be useless. If you want a yarn pom-pom though, go ahead and drop me a line. I might just come through.