It was an important part of my life. My older sisters were in scouting, too, and my mother was a leader for many of those years. She was Leader of the Year for our council in 1968 and also worked at a couple of summer camps.
Here's me my first summer at Girl Scout camp.
My family's summer vacation was always camping for two weeks among the giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park, so I was accustomed to being able to live simply outdoors. But our troop did so much more than camp.
Of course, with the era I grew up in, scouting sometimes reinforced traditional roles for girls. I remember learning as a Brownie how to make a hospital corner with a bed sheet, a skill I found fascinating (and hadn't learned at home), and we sewed our own skating skirts when we took roller skating as a group.
But we also learned about Juliette Gordon Low. We were taught to tie knots, brush and ride a horse at summer camp, sing in harmony, live with dirty knees and hiking boots, and, of course, how to become excellent little sales people when cookie and calendar time came around every year. I even studied judo with my older sister's troop. Despite being decidedly non-militaristic as an adult, I must confess that I loved wearing a uniform and marching (wearing white gloves) in step in parades.
Being competent and self-reliant was part of the Scouting package and that identity has carried through my life to this day. We also learned to work well with others, to support other females on our team, and we were led by kind, strong women. I never experienced any of the cliquish in fighting that went on among girls in my larger world.
The picture above shows a happy-but-tearful me being sent off by my troop to my exchange year in Brazil halfway through my senior year in high school. One of the best parts of my year of living with a Brazilian family, attending high school, and learning Portuguese by immersion? You guessed it: being welcomed into an equipe de Guias Bandeirantes, a Girl Scout troop.
In my Local Foods mysteries, a central character is Ellie Kosloski, a plucky 14-year old Girl Scout just entering high school. In the first book, she's working on her Locavore badge -- one of the newest badges -- and she's volunteering on Cam Flaherty's farm. She ends up being trapped in a near-fatal situation with Cam toward the end and the two work together to forge their escape. We see her mature as the series continues but she continues being a Scout.
I'll admit that when I read about the new Locavore badge, I just had to add Ellie to my series. But it was a natural addition for me who, like many of my author peers, grew up on Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, strong girls who solved intriguing puzzles. When I informally surveyed a number of crime fiction writers in Sisters in Crime, forty-one reported having been a Girl Scout with only two saying they hadn't. Some who had didn't stay in long, but many said it really formed their self-perception as a person who could do whatever she wanted.
What about you? What childhood experiences shaped your best adult traits? Was scouting part of it?