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Life in Retirement: Small boxes of cookies, big buckets of memories

A trip down memory lane
Sandy Bexon. (File photo)

How many boxes of Girl Guide cookies have you eaten so far this spring? Don’t you love the moment you answer the door and realize it’s that special time of year, when you get to debate which is best – the chocolate or the vanilla. Or, for you outsiders, if this year’s supply will be those peppermint flavoured ones. Those ones are always a slight disappointment for me, I gotta confess, although I still buy a box. And then grumble to myself about the price. In my house, the entire encounter is like a right of spring.

My dealer these days is a sweet young girl down the lane. It seems as though she arrives each spring just in that rare moment when I actually have cash in my purse. Like, who carries cash anymore? Except those of us prepared to pounce on our annual box of Girl Guide cookies.

I realize the moniker for the guiding program has changed, which I both applaud for progressing with the times and which I disdain for the confusion it creates. If you have a young person in the guiding program now, I’m sure you don’t stumble over Sparks and Embers, etc. Back in the day, it was called Brownies and, come to think of it, I’m sure there were a whole lot of little songs and chants that would also have had to be updated.

My whole family was involved – from Mom, who was Brown Owl, to each sister who stuck it out right up to Guides. I tried to hang on for the chance to ‘fly up’ to Guides, because I could think of nothing more prestigious than that ceremony. But I ended up dropping out of Brownies after the first year, but not before I learned the important life lesson of semaphore. This is a system of sending messages by holding two flags in certain positions according to an alphabetic code. Just in case us seven year-olds ever found ourselves in charge of landing a military airplane or signaling to the enemy.

I failed semaphore, but I did get a badge for cooking some tea and toast for Grandma. Others had sewn double lines of badges down each arm by then, for which they got an additional sewing badge. I think my solitary badge that was clamped on with a safety pin along the sleeve of my brown blouse was a signal to Brown Owl, aka Mom, that it was time for me to move along. I’m sure it was a disappointment to both her and Dad, who was a Beaver Leader in his own right. When my older brother joined Scouts and came home exuberantly bellowing his newfound chant ‘Akela!’, my four year-old ears misinterpreted the word. I ran around the house shouting ‘Tequila!’ and mimicking him joyfully, until Brown Owl put a stop to it.

I clearly recall my own experience with selling Girl Guide cookies, too. My oldest friend and I were tag-teaming, I was the PR gal who rang the doorbells along the route while she pulled the wagon. Before I even reached the doorbell of one house, I saw the number 6 clearly displayed on their brick and ran excitedly back to the wagon yelling ‘They want six boxes!’ We staggered back together to the door under the weight of all those cookies and confidently rang the bell. ‘But I don’t want any cookies,’ the confused man said when he answered. ‘Your sign says you want 6 boxes,’ I responded defensively. ‘That’s my address!’ he explained.

I just visited that friend on Vancouver Island a few weeks ago and we still laugh about that incident, 55 years later! Such pleasant, safe and innocent childhood memories. Funny how opening a little box of cookies brings out a Jeannie of thoughts. Even the peppermint ones!

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