It’s that time of year again, so Jay Redfern, an editor at my hometown newspaper, The Register-Mail, did a blog post recently on Girl Scout cookies.
I caught wind of Jay’s story through Twitter, because these days about a hundred miles separates me from my hometown of Galesburg, Ill.
The first tweet I saw said, “What’s your favorite kind of Girl Scout cookie?”
Then, as time went on, the tweets became more specific, directed to people like @AlRoker (DoSiDos and Tagalongs) and @PumaBerkman, aka Lance, the famous St. Louis Cardinal (“the peanut butter ones”). He also asked local celebrities—teachers, business people and more—which they prefer.
But one of the celebrities struck me the strongest, because when I think of Girl Scouts, I think of her.
To me, Girl Scout cookies represent all those things we said we’d try to do when we made the Girl Scout Promise, all those things we said we’d do our best to do when we recited the Girl Scout Law.
They remind me of making new friends, and keeping the old—one silver and the other gold.
I think of Girl Scout cookies and I think of loyal customers, neighbors who bought cookies from me year after year. I think of goal-setting, of wanting to beat my sales from the year before. I remember working to get each order together right and counting change back just so. I remember keeping my customer list, so I’d have it the next year. (I still have it. It means even more to me now than it did then.)
And, I remember my daughters learning all those same things.
Girl Scout cookies remind me of a pressed brown uniform and beanie, getting my wings in the fly-up ceremony, trying to sew hard-earned badges on a sash by hand and poking myself with the needle about a zillion times.
Those cookies remind me of a night spent in a big lodge at Black Hawk State Park and another under the stars at Galesburg’s Lake Storey.
That’s where the other celebrity comes in.
The year I went off to camp for the first time, with my brand new pocket knife, a potato and a can of vegetable soup for hobo stew, I met one of the smartest people in my little world—my camp counselor, an older Girl Scout who taught us how to use our knives to carve bars of Ivory soap into treasured sculptures, then clean the knives in a bucket of soapy water so we could use them to peel the potatoes for our stew.
That counselor taught us to sing silly songs about a chicken who couldn’t lay an egg and sticking our heads in little skunk holes.
She may have fallen a little out of my favor when she taught me how to clean the latrine, but she reached hero status for life, when as the whole camp lay in the grass, sleeping bags lined row-by-row, she stood under the starlit canopy and sang “Ghost Riders in the Sky” for us, while playing her ukulele.
Until that day, I’d never met anyone who played the ukulele—and it was decades before I met another with that musical gift and wonderful little instrument. As I fell asleep in the light of the moon, I figured I’d probably met one of the smartest, most talented people I’d ever encounter.
I didn’t know the word “mentor” then, but that week Semenya McCord became one of mine. Now a jazz musician and music educator, she still fills that role, inspiring me to pursue my dreams—though different than hers—just as she has pursued hers.
I think of Girl Scouts—and of Semenya—when I see a bar of Ivory soap or hold a pocket knife.
When Jay asked about Girl Scout cookies, it wasn’t just the taste of a cookie I remembered, but experiences and people I cherish yet today. Oh, the memories that simple question awoke.
In case you’re wondering, though, my number one choice always was and still is today Thin Mints.
And so is my mentor’s.
© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012