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Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time

We all have memories of our childhood that make us feel happy.  Things that when we think of them we recall a warmth and contentment that's sometimes difficult to find in adulthood.  For me, one of those memories is linked very closely to Girl Scout Cookies.

Back when I was growing up, it seemed like every girl was a Girl Scout.  The schools all had troops, and scouting was as much a part of elementary school and junior high as youth soccer is today.  It's sad because scouting doesn't seem nearly as popular today as it was back then.

We all worked to earn badges and went on camp outs.  Anyone who knew my mother would agree that camp grounds were not her natural habitat but there she was, making hobo stew and s'mores.  In fact, anyone who knows me knows that my idea of camping is staying at a Hilton, but I loved the camp outs.  I still have my mess kit.

One of my favorite things about Girl Scouts was the annual cookie sale.  I loved the cookies.  But more than loving the cookies, I loved spending the time with my grandpa Mike.  It's that time we spent together selling cookies that brings back some of my best memories.

My grandpa Mike was a dashing man who made his career in pharmaceutical sales.  He was a successful man and lived a very nice life with my grandma Mary.  Despite his success, he always said that he wished he could have been a bum.  I guess it all seemed very romantic to him, not having to go to a job every day and not having to worry about lots of possessions.  And, because I worshipped him, I too thought that life on the streets was romantic.

Every year, my grandparents helped my sisters and I sell our cookies.  The goal was always to sell the most in our troop and to earn the coveted badge.  My grandmother always took my sisters to the car wash, which she called the "auto laundry," and I went with my grandfather.

We would load the trunk of my grandfather's giant black Buick Electra full of cases of cookies, and we would drive down to the heart of skid row in Los Angeles.  And then we would walk up and down the streets and talk to the men and hand out the boxes of cookies.  We would then walk through Westlake Park and hand out more cookies.  In my childhood, my grandfather and I probably gave away thousands of boxes of cookies.  And then every year my grandfather wrote a check to the Girl Scouts for the entire amount.

My grandfather taught me about giving.  He taught me not to be afraid of people, no matter what their circumstances.  He always said that it was often bad luck that landed these people on the streets.  Sometimes they told us their stories, but more often they just showed quiet gratitude for the cookies.  Even thinking of these experiences today, I still feel warm all over.

So, here I am, an adult and I still have a soft spot for the Girl Scouts and their cookies.  Every year I buy far more cookies than we need because I am unable to pass up a group of girls stationed at the entrance of the grocery store or anywhere else.  I still owe a debt of gratitude to my grandpa and the Girl Scouts for teaching me about giving.

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