About a month ago, my daughter joined the ubiquitous Girl Scouts organization as a Daisy. I’ve always wanted to be a scout. I was a Girl Guide in Junior Secondary School (JSS), but that’s analogous to comparing the Beatles to Corky and the Juice Pigs . Same genre, just way (way!) less cool.
When Nadjah first joined the Scouts, I was presented with a garage of paperwork and fee tables – $12 for this $13 for that. Anytime you enroll your child into something it’s going to cost you, so I was prepared for that. Amongst the permission slips and emergency contact paperwork, one sheet of paper stood out from the rest: It was the permission to sell cookies form. That got me excited. I love Girl Scout cookies! They’re so delicious; and if you count sugar as an energy substance, they’re nutritious too. I was more than ready to embark on the Scouts traditional fundraising activity, even if that meant I had to buy and eat all the cookies myself.
I was pleased to learn that quite a few of my friends had enrolled their girls into the Scouts. What a true sisterhood. An amalgamation of goodwill and sisterhood. At the inauguration of Na’s troop, I watched with misty eyes as the the tiny girls with fresh presses and twists clasped each other’s hands and sang the Girl Scout song:
Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold
I was so proud and glad that my baby was a scout. What a beautiful spirit! The spirit of respect and collective community permeates through every facet and pore of the Scouts…every pore but the cookie sale.
On January 7th, we started the sale in earnest. The troop leader implored us not to take the order forms to work and have co-workers make order, no matter how tempted we may be.
“The point is to get the girls to do the asking,” she kindly admonished.
No sweat. My strategy was simple. I’d get Nadjah all dressed up in her uniform, take the order sheet around our church and neighborhood, and be done with it. Simple.
Not that simple at all.
As it turns out, some of the other troops in the Atlanta area started taking orders waaaay before January 7th…like in December…like before Christmas. The official rules say that we were not to begin taking orders until after the new year. But okay, whatever. I could handle that.
What I was no t prepared for was the sheer ferocity with which some Scout parents attacked this whole concept of sales. It has become an all out free for all – a blood bath, if you will, to see who can sell the most cookies. At stake are prizes that do little to benefit the girls – like an iPod and a new laptop – as the spoils of this cookie war will better serve the parents. I have seen an onslaught of Twitter updates for people peddling cookies. Facebook is alight with inbox messages on the topic. I have gotten at least two texts with requests to support another Scout. And then there was me. I am ashamed to say that I must count myself among the rabid, frenetic parent clique who, above all else, want to see their child in the winner’s circle.
So what do I do? On Sunday, instead of dressing my daughter in a lacy gown, I put Na in her uniform and plaited her hair into pigtails. The moment service was over, I scooped her out of Sunday school and paraded her around the church, soliciting orders.Gap toothed and squeaky voiced, she was irresistible to all who crossed her path. Irresistible to everyone but my friend Francis, who informed me that she had already ordered a box from a co-worker. I felt my countenance cloud. My left eye twitched.
“Don’t look at me like that Malaka!”
“What? You bought cookies from someone else. Mmm hmmm. God bless you.”
I hugged her like Judas hugged (or kissed) Jesus before betraying Him into the hands of the Romans.
For the next 15 minutes we hit the rest of the church hard and furious. Everyone was taking an order! We had 25 boxes in the cache. Feeling pretty good about myself, I began to tally how much money that was going to mean for the troop. A husky, almost cartoonish voice broke my thoughts. It was Ariana, one of my very good friend’s daughter. She seemed despondent, about what I could not imagine.
This was the third or fourth time she’d said my name.
“Huh? Oh hey Ari!”
“Miss Malaka, I’m selling Girl Scout cookies too,” she said, her brown bespectacled eyes looking dolefully at me. She was clutching her lesson from Sunday school.
“Oh are you?!” I exclaimed. “And how’s it going?”
“Fine,” she whispered.
“Oh. Well. See ya later.”
I walked off. What on earth was bothering that child? I finished my tally and hopped into my car. On the way home, it hit me. I knew precisely what she was thinking.
Stop taking all the church orders, you selfish whore. I want to sell some cookies too.
Aww man! How rude of me. Dag. Sorry Ari. Ah well! Shoulda brought your Girl Scout order form. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. Just call me Ol’ Yeller.