Lately, incidents long past, things I haven’t thought about for a half-century or longer, are popping into my memory.
When I was in second grade, my mother signed me up for Brownies. Meetings were held in Borough Hall, a community center within walking distance from our home. I had no idea what Brownies was, but Mommy promised it would be fun, that I’d make new friends and take part in activities.
I discovered that half of the troop were classmates of mine from my parochial school; the other girls went to the local public school. They were my instant new friends, who would be constants in my life through high school. Two of their mothers served as leaders. Mrs. Chapin and Mrs. Jenkins were sweet, patient women.
Folding chairs ringed the spacious meeting room. While we waited for others to arrive, we engaged in a lively game of tag.
After the meeting, Mom asked if I had fun, and I responded affirmatively.
The next day, when I returned home after school, my mother met me at the door with a furrowed brow and crossed arms. “Mrs. Chapin just called me. She said you were very wild at Brownies yesterday.”
I was mystified. The word wild conjured visions of jungles and tigers in my brain. How had I been wild?
I assured my mother that, no, I had not been wild at Brownies.
Unconvinced, Mom warned me, “If you act wild at your meetings, you will not be allowed to be a Brownie.”
As I was growing up, I always considered my behavior to be exemplary. Of course, remembering this incident now at my advanced age, I recognize that my hysterical laughing and running around during the game of tag certainly could be classified as wild. If I had been Mrs. Chapin, I would have called my mother, too.
The highlight of that first year of Brownies (which would be an annual event throughout my Girl Scout career) was marching in the Memorial Day parade.
The parade was already a big deal for me. I had watched it from the curb every year of my life. The marchers gathered in a nearby schoolyard, the parade route passing close by my house on the way to Victory Park. There, in front of a World Wars monument, the brave fallen warriors were remembered in speeches by elected officials, followed by the playing of Taps and a twenty-one-gun salute.
But that year, the parade was all about ME, dressed in my Brownie uniform, while thousands of adoring fans cheered as I marched past. Obviously, I was now famous.
It’s funny how children perceive themselves as the center of the universe. I had missed the whole point of the parade—that thousands of servicemen and women had given their lives to defend my country’s freedom. They were the heroes, not me.
Let us never forget.
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