When Oldest Daughter Boo was in elementary school we lived in a neighborhood full of kids, many with working moms, and the little girls were at an age where cattiness sometimes seemed the after-school activity of choice. They were good kids and in one of my altruistic phases I started a Girl Scout troop for them, hoping to promote sisterhood, fun, citizenship. . . all that. I’d load up my car once a week with girls, supplies, and snacks, and we’d craft, snack, sing–all those Scout-y activities.
A favorite game was one where they would form two lines and one girl would go down between the two rows, doing a movement of her choosing–a funny dance step, making a funny face, etc., and then the other girls would follow suit, imitating her movement. Even the shyest girls loved it. I don’t think I ever knew the exact words to the song, but it went something like this:
This way Veronica. . . That way Veronica. . . This way Veronica, all the way home.. . .
Here comes another one, just like the other one. . . here comes another one, all the way home.
Strut Miss Lucy. . . strut Miss Lucy. . . strut Miss Lucy all the way home.
One troop led to another and at one time I was involved with three. The one I remember most vividly, however, was that third troop I was involved with. . . a group of older girls (maybe 13 to 15, going on 30?) some of whom had not previously been in scouting. My friend Martha, who had grown up in scouting, organized the troop and pushed all the right guilt buttons to get me to help: Maturing bodies, hormones, and mood swings make for a difficult time for young teens Some of these girls have a tough home life and have already been in trouble in school. This could make a difference for them.
Promises of you don’t have to do anything, just come and be another adult body won me over. I agreed to be co-leader.
Martha kept her word and for months I simply showed up one evening a week to assist with projects and try to look friendly, approachable, and competent. It was an odd group–some still played with Barbie dolls, others were Barbie dolls, sporting sizable mammaries sure to give them back trouble later on. Martha managed to find activities to interest and keep them under control without being too authoritarian. Since I have two speeds–manic and milquetoast–I marveled at the ease with which she maintained order.
When fearless leader Martha planned a troop trip to Savannah to visit the home of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouting, I begged off. We had three children, one still in diapers, and leaving them with my husband for the weekend was too risky. He had no merit badges for cooking or changing diapers and one bout of diarrhea could send him over the edge. Another mom had agreed to go along on the trip, so I was relieved of chaperone duty.
Martha arranged transportation–an old school bus complete with Savannah or Bust sign, lodging, eating arrangements, the tour, and the visit to a historic cemetery for tombstone rubbing, a craft we’d studied at one of our meetings. Packing instructions–no short shorts. . . permission slips. . . snacks. . . craft supplies. . . she handled it all.
Then came her late night phone call the evening before the trip.
Her stepfather had died. She had to go to Pennsylvania. Would I go to Savannah in her place. She’d be “beholden” forever.
What could I say?
That is how I found myself in a quaint old hotel in Savannah with a gaggle of young teens, four to a room. I hadn’t even opened my suitcase when the manager called: Some of your girls are here in the lobby creating a disturbance.
The four culprits were modeling their dress code violations to the delight of the mostly military clientele in the lobby. The skimpy shorts on their waggling bottoms would fit in a toothbrush holder.
I marched them back upstairs only to be called again later that day by the same weary manager who informed me that “some of your girls” have been hanging out their windows calling to sailors. The staff had intercepted one sailor on his way up to take the girls up on their generous offer. The manager wanted to alert me because he “could not guarantee” that the staff would be so observant if it happened again. What should I do? Have ’em sleep in the bus?
The visit to the Juliette Low house was fun and everyone was on best behavior; there were no males in sight. Things were looking up, since next on the agenda was the cemetery. Surely they couldn’t get a rise out of any men there. Ha! Little did I know. . . !
Tombstone rubbings were the planned craft activity, but the troublesome foursome kept wandering toward the back wall. Their movements seemed harmless. . . until I heard whistling and looked up. . . at the windows of a prison just on the other side of the wall. Heads in every window, arms waving as the girls wiggled and waved. The pokey was hoppin’ with excitement; there was life around the old cemetery after all.
Back at the hotel that night, I shoved all the furniture out of my room and into the hall, calling to so inform the manager, who by that time recognized my voice. The girls dragged in their mattresses and we made the room one big pallet for a sleepover. I spent the world’s longest night with a wall-to-wall assortment whispering, giggling, gassy, unsleepy girls all around me, but at least I didn’t have to worry about wandering sailors.
That was my last visit to Savannah. My husband said I left home as a sweet little housewife and came back a military dictator. Post-traumatic scout syndrome, I’m sure. There should be a badge for that.
As for the girls, I think they received a Juliette Low patch for the trip. Too bad there wasn’t one for strutting.