Tuesday, March 5, 2013

third fencepost

Once upon a time, I was a Girl Scout.

I have so many fond memories of my 12 (!!) years in Scouting that I could honestly dedicate this blog to little else.  Mom came up to me one day, right at the beginning of first grade, and said to me and my friend Oni, who stayed at our house sometimes after school, "How would you girls like to be Brownies?"  And I remember jumping up and Oni jumping up and both of us giggling and excited.  We definitely wanted to be Brownies!

Mom was my troop leader all through Brownies.  Then we moved to Missouri, and I joined a Junior troop there for the short time we stayed.  Then it was back to Oklahoma, and I was an active Junior there, too.  Camping, cookie sales, crafts, all-nighters with dear, dear friends.  There are so many stories there.

When I crossed over to Cadettes, however, well, that was when the fun really started.

Cadette Troop 121 on one of our
many adventures
Not many girls stay involved once they hit junior high.  I joined a Cadette troop that was, I believe, no more than seven or eight strong at the beginning.  It was the best possible troop experience I think anyone could have.  The leader was a young woman, a teacher, named Leanna.  She was living at home with her folks, Barbara and Bob, who were also really involved in Scouting - both Girl Scouts and, until their son was no longer involved, Boy Scouts.  Barbara and Bob served as co-leaders.  

"Ladybug" at Camp Kate Portwood
in Altus, OK, spring 1994
We were a camping, crafting, cookie-selling kind of troop.  If there was something we could do, we did it.  I learned a lot about leadership, about friendship, about teamwork - this family of Girl Scout leaders taught us all so much.  

Barbara, or "Ladybug" as she was affectionately known, was a force to behold.  She was the consummate volunteer, and she loved kids.  She loved showing us what she knew, whether it was camp cooking or sewing or skits or songs.  She was a wonderful woman who helped show me a bigger world, and I remember her with a lot of love.  

Barbara, and Leanna, were incredibly influential women in my life during a period where it was difficult to find connections.  Adolescence sucks, as I'm sure you'll all remember.  Being a Girl Scout, in that troop, with those ladies (and my wonderful friends, especially Keri Dawn and Juanita), was life-altering, in the best ways.  

A postcard from Our Chalet in
Switzerland, dated October 2000
Barbara kept in touch over the years - I got the occasional postcard from overseas adventures, from trips she and Bob took to visit friends or do Girl Scout things.  I got Christmas letters and sometimes other notes. And then, after a long period with little contact, we reconnected over Facebook.  You can't tell me social media doesn't serve a greater purpose - being back in touch with Barbara and Bob and Leanna, while it hasn't been extensive contact and I haven't seen any of them in nearly twenty years, has been incredible.

Fifteen months ago, Barbara went to the doctor for an eye exam, and came out with a diagnosis of brain cancer.  She was given eleven weeks to live.  She beat the cancer back with radiation and chemo and a ton of prayer from warriors she knows literally all over the world.  But the Lord called her home this morning.  I found out from Leanna on Facebook while I was, ironically, doing something the two of them taught me to do - leading a meeting of women.

All day long, as I was out doing the things that I feel Girl Scouting, and especially Barbara Thompson, taught me to do, I thought of her, and her laugh, her irrepressible optimism and good attitude.  Her encouragement, her determination, her giving spirit.  

We learned a song, my last summer in Troop 121, that has been in my head all day.

"I've been sitting here thinking about leaving,
Just when I wanted to stay the most.
So I went outside and left a piece of my heart
Buried by the third fencepost.

When tomorrow morning comes
I'll be smiling
Though I might feel a little down.
Though my body's leaving,
I'll still be around."

Rest in peace, my dear, dear friend.

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