Tuesday, March 01, 2011

My three lives of Guiding: The Girl Years

I began my lifelong association with Guiding when I was seven years old. I was a Brownie. I had no idea what Guiding was. I was a Brownie. And there were these mythical older beings called Guides and I could be one when I stopped being a Brownie. But that's where my knowledge of the organization stopped.

I went to weekly meetings. I (for a while) proudly wore my brown uniform to school on Brownie day (I think it was Monday). I played with my new Brownie friends who weren't necessarily in my class, but went to my school. I became a sixer. I went to camp.

But I didn't particularly like Brownies.

I was kind of bored. I stuck around because my mom was one of the Brownie leaders.

I'm glad I stuck around. Because it meant that eventually I flew up to Guides.

And I loved Guides.

We were a small group - two patrols, so probably fewer than 12 kids. Two Guiders. Camping. Fn stuff. I loved it. My best friend Fiona was in my Guide Company - we had been in different Brownie Packs - it was great. I loved it.

From Guides I moved up to Pathfinders and from Pathfinders to Rangers. By the end of it there was a core group of girls who had been in pretty much every level together and we loved it. We also had some really awesome adults providing first supervision and instruction, then guidance and support.

I loved what Guiding gave me. I had the opportunity to do things I enjoyed like hiking and camping; I got to learn new skills like cooking at camp and tying a tarp down so that it gave ample shade and protection from rain and wouldn't blow down in a storm; I had a safe place to go every week where I could just be me.

Being me was important to me. I wasn't the coolest of kids, but I had a good group of friends, some were in Guides, Pathfinders, and Rangers with me, some weren't. There was no pressure to be anything other than me at Guides. There were no boys or teachers to impress. I could be silly or serious. I could try to be intelligent or I could play dumb. I could be noisy or quiet. I could be shy or outgoing. And I was accepted. Huge when you're a teenager! HUGE!

When I went away to boarding school I joined the Lones program because I couldn't imagine life without Guiding.

Many of those girls are still my friends. Some I keep in touch with through Facebook. Some are still people I see regularly. My matron of honour (Fiona) and one of my bridesmaids were both in Guides with me (my other two bridesmaids are my sisters). Fiona was the first person to meet J when she was born.

And those women who were our leaders? They were our other moms...they put up with things our moms wouldn't. They taught us all kinds of lessons about life and camping and hiking and flora and fauna and the environment and friendship and trust and loyalty.

Where are they now? Well, one, Gwen, happens to be Fiona's mom and she was at my wedding too and she was one of the very first people to come to the hospital when J was born. I'm friends with two of the others on Facebook and my mom runs in to the fourth a couple of times a year, so we keep up with each other that way...But these four women were certainly an important, and constant, part of my life!

And then I graduated from high school...where would Guiding take me next?

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