I was a little disappointed to read about the embattled Girls Scouts of the USA.

It’s sad to see such a longtime, child-focused organization struggling with infighting, declining membership and decreased funding.

I both loved and hated being in the Girl Scouts myself: loved it because I felt grown up, wearing that green uniform with the belt and official-looking sash; hated it because I yearned to have all those patches, medals and honors other girls had, but knew I’d never live long enough to earn.

The accomplished girls pranced around at meetings, touting their badges, while the rest of us gaped at them, wide-eyed.

I guess you could say there were some of us who disliked competition and felt defeated when we gazed at those sashes plastered with accolades, while ours bore a mere pittance of patches and pins.

Those aggressive girls seemed able to amass them one after another with seeming ease, while we struggled to acquire a handful.

It wasn’t that I was dumb or lazy. I much preferred being outdoors to garnering badges, I guess. I’d rather be climbing trees and building cabins in the woods, fishing, putting on plays in the barn, writing stories and reading books.

Now being in the Brownies was a different story. We were much younger and wore brown uniforms with beanie caps and had a leader named Mrs. Aho who was nice and had us doing all sorts of fun things, such as making pincushions out of walnut shells.

I was very proud of mine and gave them to my mother for Christmas.

Mrs. Aho showed us how to split the walnuts into perfect halves and clean out the insides of the shells. Then we packed each shell cavity with cottony white stuff and covered it with pretty fabric.

We fastened a red ribbon to each shell and tied them together in a bow, producing two neat little pincushions.

I don’t remember a competitive atmosphere in Brownies, probably because we had not been on Earth long enough to contract the bug.

Mrs. Aho never pushed us to be better than the next girl and always had refreshments on hand for us. I particularly liked her brownies, which were moist and chocolaty. In fact, to this day, whenever I have a brownie, I think of her.

Being in Brownies was fun, but I didn’t last very long in Girls Scouts. I guess you could say I was a good Brownie but a bad Scout. I recall the exact moment I decided to quit the latter.

We were instructed to sew large drawstring bags, and while I knew something of sewing, having learned from my grandmother how to hem shorts and darn stockings, my patience waned when it came to sewing a drawstring bag.

My hands were more suited to casting a line or pounding nails than manipulating a needle and thread. The bag I created in Girls Scouts was a disaster. The hems ripped out when I attempted to lug my school books in it and the drawstring never worked right.

While my sisters were great seamstresses, I was anything but nimble in that department.

In the eighth grade, I elected to make bell-bottom slacks in home economics. I found some soft gray and white fabric and a fashionable pattern and went to work, mustering all the energy I could.

I wore my bell bottoms to school the day after I completed them, only to have the fabric tear apart, and not even on a hem.

I was so disgusted I threw the bell bottoms in the trash, never to sew again except to hem an occasional pair of pants or sew a button on a shirt.

I can’t really blame the Girl Scouts for my current distaste for needle and thread. I know women who claim to have benefited greatly from the camaraderie and the skills they learned while in the organization.

And in all good conscience, I should day that, despite my less-than-stellar performance in the Girl Scouts, I still have fond memories of wearing that green dress.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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