Thursday, August 12, 2010

brownies & bluebirds

when i was in second grade, a lot of us girls joined the brownies. i suppose most of my friends and most of their friends were members. we had been given quite a pep talk about it by someone... not someone i knew and not the woman who was our leader. she made it sound AWESOME. i remember there were dues and i think we paid them early in the process (or rather our parents paid them).

i remember going with my mother to a very old-fashioned counter in some local department store to buy the things i needed to BE a brownie. this included a complete uniform. i was so excited. the uniforms were an ugly brown, but it didn't matter. this was the first time ever that i was to be in a club and, according to the booklet i received, a number of fun things were in store.

i don't know how many meetings we went to... i only remember one. for some reason, it was at city hall. city hall had a few rooms used for various meetings, but it was very unusual for a group of second grade girls to go there for a meeting. i do believe we had at least one meeting previous to this that was in a classroom right after school.

we were all dressed in our little uniforms and they'd told us we might earn our first badge. i don't remember who led our brownie troop. i do know she was not one of our teachers. she was a new person to us. i don't know if she was in our first meeting, but i know this was not the first time we saw her. something about her... i think she was the reason for everything that happened next...

as soon as we all got into city hall and were assembled in the room, it was announced that a few girls (they were specifically named) would go into another room and do some sort of special project. i think some girls were left in the room we started in and i went with a group in an adjoining room. i feel like most of us girls did the same project. the few selected girls... i do not know what they did. we all were very curious about it, but they were taken to another part of the building and doors were closed between us and them (whereas the doors between the two larger groups were open).

we were told to sit in a circle. i was with two of my best friends and another couple of girls i felt were good friends. one or two of my special friends were in the other large group. although i should have known the girls in the small, selected group (there weren't THAT many of us, after all) i have the impression at least some of them seemed unfamiliar to me.

there were a couple of ladies who assisted the brownie leader. i don't remember when our leader left us, but she wasn't around much for that meeting. our chance to earn a badge was for sewing. i'd tried to learn to sew with my mother before, but i was totally unprepared for what they actually gave us.

it was a bird, the far from simple pattern was outlined in blue. we were given some light blue thread (i'm not sure if it was even embrodiery floss, but if it was it was very thin). with no explanation, we were to do this rather advanced project within an hour or so. not knowing any better, we tried. i managed to attach mine to my dress. (btw, there are certain stitches in embroidery.. i do recall someone talking about this, but i'm not sure if anyone was actually able to use this information).

finally, we were given a cookie and some very thin lemonade and released to our parents. well, most of us. i don't remember seeing the selected girls.

and not long after that, most of us abruptly quit brownies. or rather, our parents took us out of it. most unusually, NONE of us got the crap kids usually get about quitting stuff, wasting money, etc. i know the brownie troop did not really disband. a few girls stayed in although i didn't know that until years later.

i don't know what made our parents pull us all out of the troop. i think it was something to do with our leader. the only other time i ever remember my mother saying even one word about this was about four years later. i had a friend who was a girl scout. i asked my mother if i could join as well. she said no, i'd already been in the girl scouts. she didn't get upset with me, but there was no further discussion after that.

it's possible this is not as mysterious to some of the other girls as it is to me. some of them can still ask their parents what happened. weirdly, i forgot all about everything except having a uniform and sewing the bluebird to my dress by mistake. shortly after i was out of the brownies everything i had gotten for it was gotten rid of by my mother. i don't know if she gave it to someone else or just threw it away. i can't exactly ask her as she passed away only a year or so after i asked her about the girl scouts.

after all these years, i am not sure who i'd ask about this meeting. i remember my friend's mother arriving to take us home. and something there she did not like at all when she saw it, but i am not sure what to make of that. i do believe whatever it was, she called my mother about it. i do still know this lady, but i can't think of how to ask her about this without sounding completely crazy.

i keep thinking there's nothing to it because i can't really remember anything specific. but, it WAS strange. plus, since when do parents throw away money for uniforms, books, and dues without even a complaint? and i'm not talking about just a couple of folks... i'm talking about at least 15 sets of parents. i remained friends with some of these same girls for years and spent time in their houses. never did anyone ever mention the brownies after we all left the troop. not even when they were complaining about "all the money i spend on your clubs". not my parents. not any of my friends' parents. OTHER activities they complained about, but not this one.

i remember us wearing those brownie uniforms to school and we were proud of them. but something was always happening to my dress. i was sewing stuff on it, getting stuff on it. i remember getting something weird and yellow on it when i was outside. i tried to clean it off, but i couldn't. this makes me think there was at least one meeting after the one at city hall. i don't think i ever wore the uniform again after that day.

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