I got kicked out of Scouts. The leader didn’t like my attitude. I didn’t particularly care for hers.
No. That’s not the whole truth. As an nine-year-old, I worshipped her. Dreamed of being as stylish and poised as she was. Wanted her beauty and glamour to rub off on me. She wore a charm bracelet of multitudinous silver trinkets given her by former boyfriends. She herself was a charm.
I, on the other hand, had two left feet and a habit of opening my mouth and sticking both in at the same time.
She kicked me out after two sewing projects—an apron and a handkerchief.
My Mom and I purchased blood-red material and green thread for the apron. My favorite colors. Mom showed me how to use her treadle sewing machine. But remember those left feet? I peddled backward so the green-stitched hem ambled hither and yon.
I thought it pretty nifty when I brandished it for the scout mistress. She curled her lip, cautiously picked it up between her thumb and index finger, and scrutinized it contemptuously. I felt for that apron.
(I wore it every time Mom let me help cook. Which wasn’t often because I’d once set fire to the kitchen. Accidently of course.)
The second project involved crocheting around a white handkerchief. I assiduously worked for a week. It felt like drudgery. When our troop met again, all the other scouts had already crocheted around all four sides. I’d managed only one. They went on to new projects. And merit badges.
When the scout mistress examined my work, I said, “I like having just one side crocheted. It looks different.”
“It looks unfinished,” she said dryly. “Keep crocheting.”
I did. For one week. Two. Then a third. A whole month passed with me pulling out the thread and starting over again. The handkerchief got downright grimy. (Years later, when I read “A Tale of Two Cities,” I knew I could have been one of those women knitting by the guillotine. Only I’d be crocheting the history of hanky torture.)
At the next meeting, I said I didn’t want to work on it any more.
“You’ll work until it’s finished,” she ordered.
“You will,” she reiterated, baring her teeth.
I saw myself trying to blow my nose on that crocheted hem. It’d scratch.
“I’m finished,” I announced. “I want to do something else.”
“There’s nothing else for you until you finish this mangy handkerchief.”
Of course part of the problem was that I wanted her to like me and I didn’t feel she did. I wasn’t pretty enough or witty enough or interesting enough for her. And I could feel my dream of being just like her collapsing.
“No,” I said, swallowing hard.
“That’s it. I’ve had enough. You’re no longer in this scout troop.”
The words stunned me.
“But . . . ,” I protested.
“But nothing,” she said. “Go home, you’ll never be a scout.”
That marked the end of my scouting career. When the other girls went to troop meetings after school, I caught the early bus home, vowing that one day I'd conquer crocheting. Thus do we set goals!