Life of Jane

One Sorry Girl Scout

Grateful to a wise and patient leader

By Jane Borden

Open (and very belated) apology to Rosa McNairy, leader of Girl Scout Troop 181, 1986 — 1995.

Dear Rosa,

If you are still alive, it’s a miracle. “Death by 21 Tween Girls” should be a listing in medical journals, or at least a line on a cocktail menu.

A sensitive decibel meter may still register our shrieks ricocheting through the Irving Park Scout Hut on Dellwood Drive, which is why I write today, instead of calling, in case you’ve lost your hearing. Sorry for that.

Sorry also for not obeying the Girl Scout Law, as I definitely didn’t “do my best to be honest” or “fair,” when I tried to steal extra caramel Chewies on our canoeing trip down the Dan River. I did not “help where I was needed,” when we earned a badge for making butter and I shook the jar of cream, like, twice, before passing it along. Neither was I always “cheerful,” “friendly,” and “considerate” — sadly, the Girl Scout Law includes no fidelity to the character traits sleepy, tardy and sarcastic.

When we got to middle school, and started forming cliques, and Tricia Black and I made up songs deriding one another, I was definitely not “a sister to every Girl Scout.” (Sorry to Tricia, as well.) Neither did I do my best “to respect authority” when I went through that phase of responding to every Scout leader request by saying, “only because I want to, not because you told me too.” And I definitely didn’t “use resources wisely” when I almost never remembered to flush the loo.

I would also like to apologize for doing cartwheels so close to the rock face during our rappelling trip that one of the guides had to discipline me. And, in general, for only ever selling the minimum number of cookie boxes, in spite of the fact that they funded such trips; for never holding the flag up high enough; for talking during presentations; and for just gluing badges onto my sash rather than sewing them.

While I’m at it, I should also apologize for staying up past bedtime at your daughter Margaret’s slumber party, and then filling your freezer with wet bras and pairs of underwear, which never even froze, and no one cared about anyway. Sorry, also, for making Margaret prank-call your next-door neighbor, Mikey Godwin, from your home phone, to find out if he liked me. He didn’t.

Mostly, I apologize for relying on you as much as I did, when the whole point of Girl Scouts was to be self-sufficient. Even as I wrote this letter, I called to ask you questions. (Sorry for forgetting the reason we went to Savannah was to see the Home of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low: “It made a big impression, I can tell,” you aptly said.)

Sorry for being afraid and embarrassed to shower with the mentally handicapped children who were also staying on the USS Yorktown in Charleston. Thank you for reminding us what we share in common.

Thank you for teaching me to ski, and introducing me to the ballet. Sorry I called the ballet boring. Thanks for teaching me how to travel, and even to ride the subway in Montreal — sorry for complaining it was cold — and for insisting, without relenting, that we each try a snail. They were delicious. My apologies for taking forever to finish that meal and every meal. For many years, I ordered snails when I saw them on the menu in order to recall the culinary adventure. I eventually stopped, though, because snails are expensive.

Sorry for having no idea how much time and effort you selflessly put into running our troop.

Thank you and the rest of our always cheerful leaders and chaperones. When I asked what you all got out of it, you said, “Seeing y’all mature and have fun and become young women. Some of you made strong friendships even if you’re all over the country. The more you put into something the more you get out of it. It’s not something you can measure.”

Here’s something you can measure: the number of times I was disciplined for setting noncampfire items aflame.

Although my contrition is sincere, I do take solace in one unshakable asset we all — no matter how ill-behaved or ungrateful — had on our side: At least we weren’t Boy Scouts.  OH


Jane Borden, who carted her sash all the way to Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and daughter, and no longer lights things on fire.

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