MY MAMA DOESN’T WANT ME TO BE A BROWNIE

Home of Brownie troop mother

The Brownie meeting was in the living room of the troop mother

I’m not a joiner because joining things means you have to go to meetings. I hate meetings. I was in the third grade when I learned that about myself. One of my friends (I can’t remember her name — I’ll call her Suzie) invited me to her Brownie meeting. I thought it would be fun. I liked her brown uniform and hat. I called Mama at work for permission to go with her and off we went.

Let me say here that what I’m about to write is not meant to criticize the Brownies which I’m sure is a fine and rewarding organization for many girls. My sister had been a prize winning Brownie. Actually what I’m writing is not about the Brownies at all, but about me.

I don’t know what I expected. But what happened was a meeting. It was in the troop mother’s living room with 12 or so girls I didn’t know. The troop mother started the meeting with, “We have a new girl visiting today. Suzie, stand up and introduce your friend.” She stood up, all excited to have her own visitor. I had to stand too. I was not excited. I hated standing. My face burned. I didn’t know why I had to stand. They could all see me where I sat. I stood.“Welcome Ruthi. Now let’s start our meeting. We want to get finished because we’re going to make flowers with pipe cleaners and crepe paper. First, everybody stand up for the pledge.” They stood up. So did I – again — even though I didn’t know the pledge and didn’t know if I was supposed to stand since I wasn’t a member.

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.   (I didn’t remember it – I Googled)

The pledge done, we sat back down. The meeting seemed to go on forever. It was about some candy they had ordered, and when it would arrive, and how they would all go out and sell it to raise money for something worthy. The mother explained how worthy the worthy cause was. It was during this discussion that I became aware, for the first time, of the meeting suck-up, the person who sees a need to voice his or her (usually her) support for the speaker by uttering loud yesses, uh-huhs, and that’s rights throughout the talk. I hate those people.

The last item on the agenda was badges. “Some of our girls are getting pretty close winning another badge.” The mother’s voice dripped anticipation. They won their badges for worthy things.

 Then out came the pipe cleaner/crepe paper flowers — ordinary pipe cleaners and paper. And I learned yet another thing about myself — I didn’t like making flowers from paper and pipe cleaners – or doing any other activity that was of no value. Once made, what would I do with the flower? I wouldn’t display it in the living room. Mama had much better flowers – wax roses (10 cents a piece at Kress’s) in a pressed glass vase (also 10 cents).

Finally the mother called us into the kitchen where cookies (store bought cookies — Happy Jack’s cookies – the worst cookies ever) were set out along with Kool-Aid in Dixie cups. I’ve already risked offending international scouting so I won’t take on Kool-Aid too but… this was Coca Cola country.

The next week “Suzie” grabbed me after school — all excited. I could come as her visitor again! (Was there a badge at stake, I wondered.) I was never good at confrontation or at on-the-spot lying. I stammered and said I had to call my mother. Suzie trailed me to the school office so I had to actually make the call to Mama at work. I said, “I can’t go to the Brownie meeting again, can I?”
“Do you want to go?” Mama asked.
Suzie was listening. “Yes, I want to join – but you don’t want me to and I have to go straight home, don’t I?”
Mama was quick. “If you don’t want to go, tell her you have to go home. But go home, not anywhere else.” Mama didn’t believe in lying either.

I hung up and said to Suzie, “My Mama doesn’t want me to be a Brownie.”

That was the closest I came to joining any organization that had meetings for several years. Then my Mama’s sister, Aunt Esther, came to visit. She was all into the Masons. Her sons were in DeMolay. I just had to join Rainbow Girls. She would help me find a sponsor. She did – a girl who lived around the corner – one of the pretty girls who was never nice to me. But she agreed to sponsor me. I went to the preparatory meetings and learned the Rainbow Girl pledge (I’m not even Goggling that one). The girls talked about initiation as if it would be like a fraternity thing – with spiders and witches potion. It was titillating. I was scared. I was excited. Mama bought me a pink, chiffon, semi-formal, and totally unflattering dress for the occasion.

I went, my chubby, pre-teen body in layers of frothy chiffon, afraid and excited. Then

The Mason's hall where I attended my one meeting as a Rainbow Girl

The Mason's hall in Prichard where I attended my one meeting as a Rainbow Girl

disappointed and bored,

It was just a meeting! No spiders! No witches brew! No slimy things down our backs! Just a meeting and we had to sing.
(This one was worth a Google)
“M” is for the million things she gave me,
“O” means only that she’s growing old,
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me,
“H” is for her heart of purest gold;
“E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
“R” means right, and right she’ll always be,
Put them all together, they spell “MOTHER,”
A word that means the world to me.

I was initiated. I was done. (Masons, if you have all the satanic power cable TV claims, forgive me)

I never even considered joining anything else till I went to the University of Georgia. Sororities sounded exciting. The first round of sorority rush was a series of ice water teas. I went. They felt like meetings. I didn’t go back.

But mandatory meetings are part of life. So how did I handle them?

Teacher’s meetings: I shook my keys, rolled my eyes, and muttered, “Oh, Please!” whenever a teacher brought up such topics as copier machine etiquette (but, copier etiquette? OH, PLEASE!).

Methodist Church Board (it was supposed to be an honor to be asked): After a shouting match between minister and Lay Leader, I said, “I can go to church with you people, or sit here and listen to you fight, but I can’t do both.”

Company meeting to introduce new insurance plan: There is always one person who asks those stupid should-go-without-asking questions. eye rolls again and,“Oh, please. Read the brochure!”

The good news is anybody who knows me at all would NEVER want me on any committee, club, Board, or organization with which she or he is even remotely involved.

But if anybody does ask me, I know what I’ll say. “My Mama doesn’t want me to be a Brownie.”

Comments

  1. Beth says:

    Dear Kindred Spirit,
    I dropped out of brownies after about 6 weeks.

    I also have Jury Duty on 10/20. Will be thinking of you!

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