It's Girl Scout cookie time. I am reminded of this at work when the children of colleagues come by with their list in hand.
I am reminded when the doorbell rings and it's the little girl from two doors down, bundled up in her coat, smiling, two front teeth missing.
I am reminded when my other neighbor's granddaughters knock on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Must buy from all, even if it's just a box or two!
Oh, I remember Girl Scout cookies. My snotty little East Lansing troop did the cookie thing like others have before and since. I don't remember if we "won" anything. I just remember the cookies! (My mother, who was a troop leader told me years later we were a pretty bratty bunch! We also look hopelessly bored!)
I think if most of the kids in my Scout troop were to look back honestly, we would all say we weren't at all deprived. We lived in a lovely white-bread neighborhood where a donation at school for someone's get well bouquet would tally out equivalent to seven or eight dollars today.
It is the reason my parents moved when I was going into sixth grade. I was getting to be a little brat who wasn't impressed by much of anything and they were going to nip that in the bud by adding a little diversity to my life.
Of course I pitched a fit. What self-respecting ten-year-old wouldn't? But one doesn't have much choice in the matter at that age, so the summer before school began, I moved, leaving behind my best friend Michele (not at all snotty, I might add, and today a tremendously gifted jewelry designer) and the three Loomis girls who were very nice, too. I think (I hope) I probably wasn't all that poofy if I had such nice, down-to-earth and unspoiled friends.
You wouldn't have known I'd made much of a change from the neighborhood, or even from my elementary school. But when I got into junior high, I was surrounded by a wonderful mix of kids from all income and racial backgrounds. That was increased all the more in high school.
When I was in ninth grade, my friend Mary's parents tried to convince my parents to send me to the somewhat more posh, less inner-city school in the next county where "the kids would be more like they are."
Bless my parents. They had no intention of moving me out of the school they had chosen for me, years before I would attend it. It was probably the most significant and important decision that helped shape my life.
I was going to be a Big Red.
I not only enjoyed my years at J.W. Sexton High School, I thrived. My circle of friends was diverse. The shy kid who stammered in front of her junior high speech class became a drama star (well, not quite a star, but a relatively decent actress. And, while some may disagree, not a drama queen, either!). But I did discover this passion for theatre, terrific friends, music and so much more.
Our school board is considering whether or not to close my high school. The choice is between this and another city school. In both cases, the test scores are down, as are enrollments in the district. The thought of seeing this wonderful place close hurts me to the quick. A few years ago, I attended an open house there -- 60 years. I noticed things I'd long forgotten.
Pewabic pottery tiles in the walls...
... mosaic floors...
... a beautiful auditorium. I saw names on the stairway leading to the theatre's dressing rooms I'd long forgotten.
I made terrific lifelong friends in drama, like my friend-forever, Suzanne, with whom I shared the stage in "Barefoot in the Park."
And I've said goodbye to too many, including beautiful Gail Ulrich, whose heart was as large as the sky and who left this world decades before she should have.
The school board is looking for all the right reasons to close one school and save another. Which needs the least repair? Has the best reputation? Has the most kids walking to school? There are arguments to be made for both.
They don't care that thousands; no, tens of thousands of us, graduated with stories, friendships, life skills, new passions, a sense of confidence and self.
But I do.
So, in another month or so, when all the little Scouts who've come my way bring my cookies, I'll think back to my Scout troop, little girls who wanted to be grown up. And I'll think about what leaving did to help me grow up, too. I hope other kids will have the chance to experience what I did, where I did.
A Note about Photos: Some of the postcards are from my collection and others were pulled via googleimages. Some (tiles, sculpture) were by a fellow named Reid Sprite. Still other photos were shared on the Sexton Facebook page, so thanks, folks, for those. Finally, the cookie jars in the restaurant were taken at Van's Pastries in Grand Rapids. And note, that one looks like my childhood jar!)
Please visit my book blog, Chopsticks and String for a look at Alexander McCall Smith's "The Charming Quirks of Others."
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