IT’S GIRL SCOUT COOKIE TIME!
Though I’ve made it clear from the get‑go that my name Grandma GirlScout is in no way related to “the” Girls Scouts,
as in the official Girl Scouts of America organization, some mighty fine memories of my experiences as a youngster pursuing merit badges as a Girl Scout always come back to me at this time of year, when the latest generation of Amazing Girls of the Future are out marketing (yes, marketing‑‑not just selling!) their cookies that have been part of American life for like 100 years now.
As I write, I am in Phoenix visiting my daughter and three adorable grandchildren, and my boxes of Girl Scout cookies managed to make it all the way here from Salt Lake City mostly uneaten. I needed to write another article and wanted to give one giant shout‑out to the Girl Scouts of the world, and the lack of available time to do so directed me to the best “guest blogger” I could think of: my amazingly intelligent and funny childhood friend, fellow Girl Scouter and Campmate Toni Larson, now known in some of her writings as Antoinette Grove, thanks to a husband and her parents who likely named her after some queen. To say she’s smart is an understatement: this woman finally pursued her dream of a college degree in herbal medicine at Bastyr in her late 40s and sailed through all the science courses with A’s so straight, they probably looked like H’s on her printed report cards. Now residing on Whidbey Island, Washington, with knowledge of all things botanical and physiological, along with the know‑how for concocting various healing lotions and potions, I am proud to announce that she has more than earned her lofty title of the Wicked Witch of Whidbey.
Toni has written some hilarious bits over the years, and this one from 24 years ago was published in a Pacific Northwest publication in the summer of 1994. (I note that her musings about what the girls would be doing “20 years from now” have likely finally been answered.)
I had a delightful conversation with Toni the other day in which I forced her to let me share this old article with my readers. It’s just that special. Enjoy ‑‑ then go buy some Girl Scout cookies!
UP IN SMOKE
by Antoinette Grove
(Published in Hysteria, Summer 1994)
I was one of those people who blithely congratulated myself on a life relatively free of preventable health hazards. You know the type: doesn’t smoke, seldom drinks, loves vegetables (including brussels sprouts) and is already enough cards short of a full deck to make drug use redundant. In short, boringly healthy.
And though I draw the line at any form of exercise that creates excessive bounce or causes pain, I am fit enough to carry a child, two bags of groceries and a heavy purse from the car to the house without collapsing. Add to that a bad case of monogamy and a little padding to protect the goods and you have my physical profile in a nutshell. A prosaic life, true, but I entertained high hopes of spending my 96th birthday above ground.
But my hopes have been dashed by a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine that points the finger at childhood exposure to smoke as a significant cause of cancer in nonsmokers. Sure, both my parents smoked like chimneys, but that’s not what’s worrying me. What has me wondering if each new cough signals my impending demise is another, and far more treacherous, source of childhood smoke exposure. I’m talking about Girl Scouts.
We were cute little girls with merit badges. Our modus operandi: camping out. With faulty flashlights in hand we’d sleep in tents on the cold, hard, lumpy ground with banana slugs and potentially rabid bats as our camp mates. Bear in mind that I grew up here in the Pacific Northwest where the slugs can wrestle you to the ground.
That was the life! From age nine to 18 I averaged two campouts a year and on every darn one of them it rained. Wet boots, wet jackets, wet sleeping bags‑‑even wet toilet paper‑‑and all of it (even the toilet paper) hanging on makeshift clotheslines above a campfire stoked with (you guess it) wet wood. By the end of every campout my clothes smelled like relics from the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, and any perishables within a 6‑foot radius of the fire circle were indefinitely preserved like a smokehouse ham.
Remember that old camper’s saw, “Smoke follows beauty?” It was our watch word, our clarion call. I must have heard it a million times as tendrils of smoke followed our every move around the campfire. It hung in the trees‑‑a white, fumy miasma so dense that it wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I discovered there are supposed to be dark spaces between the stars.
Our other favorite saying was, “Charcoal is good for you,” which could be applied to nearly all of our culinary misadventures. Anything that wasn’t raw was burnt. I came to expect black food‑‑those tasty little immolated marshmallows and hot‑dogs‑on‑a‑stick. All the appropriate cooking techniques were conveniently laid out in the Girl Scout Handbook under the heading “Incineration Made Easy.”
Twenty years from now will the naive little campers of today be hugging Prevention Magazine to their breasts, bemoaning the long‑range effects of innocent pastimes?
For me, the one sure outcome of the pronouncements of the last few decades has been a rise in blood pressure from anxiety. I think I need some quiet time to relax and reflect on life’s hidden dangers.
Let’s go camping.
(Remark edited by Grandma Girlscout: Antoinette Grove can still roast a mean weenie but now admits that the ultimate camping involves room service and complimentary champagne.)