When I was nine or ten it became urgently necessary that I join the Brownies. This community group was a kind of junior Girl Scout troop, whose uniform was a delicious chocolate-coloured dress with a belt, a scarf, a tam; a little military in nature. On Fridays all the Brownies in my elementary school wore their cool uniforms to class and then afterward went on to their exclusive Brownie meeting. It was imperative that I become one and learn their secrets and most important of all, strut my stuff in the uniform.
It took months of pleading with my mother because the outfit wasn’t cheap, but I somehow convinced her I would be a lifelong Brownie with community-minded virtues, and also be completely out of her hair on any Brownie excursions.
A Brownie was a legendary figure, a kind of fairy. How cool is that?
A brownie or broonie (Scots), also known as a brùnaidh or gruagach (Scottish Gaelic), is a household spirit from British folklore that is said to come out at night while the owners of the house are asleep and perform various chores and farming tasks. The human owners of the house must leave a bowl of milk or cream or some other offering for the brownie, usually by the hearth.
Hmm. Details. On to my first day as a Brownie!
Oh my, the uniform was glorious. I would have badges of accomplishment all over it! I stood up straighter in my classes that first Friday, in sisterhood with the other proud Girls in Brown with the same name as a delicious moist fudgy treat!
The gathering took place in a classroom where all of the desks had been pushed against the wall to make room for the, er, big toadstool that Grey Owl, a big mean-looking lady who led the group, had placed in the center. We all sat cross-legged on the linoleum tiled floor and then I’m pretty sure that before we all paid our weekly dues (a quarter or a dime, I forget which) someone danced around that papier-mache toadstool. What kind of shit is this? was my un-Brownie-like thought.
But the Brownie Mystery Trips! These were well-organized bus excursions to unknown destinations, maybe to a farm or a zoo or a museum or a water park. Who could say? It could be anywhere!
Funny thing is, I have no memory of any of the destinations. Perhaps they were to a nuclear plant? Or a brain-wiping research facility? I do remember part of one trip though, in the bus, charging through the countryside with my fellow Brownies, all of us excited in a very Brownie, lady-like way. I pretended I was allergic to bridges. I wasn’t sure what “allergic” actually meant, but I had a vague idea and decided to scam my Brown Sisters of the Bus, so I made quite a show of sneezing every time we drove over a bridge, large or small. Grey Owl said nothing, bless her. I got blessed, often— every time I fake sneezed.
The thrill of being in a virtuous para-military community organization with cool uniforms was beginning to wear thin. The odd Mystery Trip did not truly compensate for the big toadstool, not really. The last straw were the badges. I earned only one badge during my short tour with the Brownies: Dishwashing. Dishwashing! Where were the badges for spelunking or chainsaw sculpting or archery? My mother (proudly) stitched my one badge onto the sleeve of my uniform. I think it had an image of a teacup or something on it, a tribute to my knowledge of how to properly wash, rinse and set dishes on a rack to dry.
I’m pretty sure my mother used that badge against me in retribution for an expensive uniform I only wore for a few months. I know I got way more dish duty.
May I now present a few of my favourite cartoons loosely related to today’s casual prompt, “community”?
Peace and love,