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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS It was a time of bell-bottoms, beads, and free love, but I was only eight. All I wanted was to be a Girl Scout, to believe in a set of rules that could make sense of the world, belong to a group of girls with goals, be a part of their secret circle, and be among the chosen in their girlish games. But on the very day when the chance to belong presented itself, I was home alone. I was too young to realize (or care) that my mama did not work because she wanted something extra. She worked so we could survive and suffered badly in the knowledge that I was home alone for two hours every day after school. My mother’s silver lining, albeit more dull gray than silver, was that our back yard began where the schoolyard ended. I could be inside the house with the doors locked before the school bell stopped ringing. And if my mama didn’t get a phone call from me in that short amount of time, I knew full well that it would not be well with my soul. Even with all the weight of selfinflicted guilt on her shoulders for leaving me home alone, she did not as much as pause when I asked if I could go to the Girl Scout meeting across the street. I realize now that what she heard was her eight-year-old daughter begging to leave the safety of locked doors and pulled blinds to go to the home of strangers. Of course, the answer was no. I get it now, but on that day, I felt as if I was missing the Second Coming. With the phone back on its cradle, I wailed, hiccupping in between heaves of anguish. As I faced the reality that my dream of being a Girl Scout was over, I pushed a chair up to the refrigerator for some ice. I do 116 Toombs County Magazine not mean a cube of ice from the ice tray, which was the 60s version of an icemaker. What I wanted was a piece of chewy ice that formed in clumps around the opening of the freezer until it was manually defrosted. Perhaps the trauma of missing a life as a Girl Scout was just too much, but for some reason I cannot explain, I abandoned the butter knife that I normally used to knock off chunks of the chewy ice, and leaned into the freezer with my tongue extended. (Before you ask what kind of child would do such a thing, note that a Google search for “How to remove a stuck tongue from a frozen surface” will produce over a million results.) It would be another two decades before cell phones would replace bicycles for “What every kid wants for Christmas,” and the phone that hung on the wall was all the way across the room. (If you’re wondering how the phone was on the wall, a Google search for “landlines” will explain.) I can only speculate that, in my hysteria, I somehow dethawed the ice around my tongue enough to give me my freedom at which point I no longer cared about Girl Scouts or the Second Coming. It might not have been the kind of freedom for which my generation is known, but it was the kind that puts things into perspective. The memory of that day always comes back to me when I hear anything about Girl or Boy Scouts. That explains why the first thing that came to my mind when I interviewed Jesse Stephens, an elite “Eagle Scout” in our community, was to ask if he knew how to remove a stuck tongue from a frozen surface. Since I want to keep writing for the Toombs County Magazine, it was not a question I asked. Incidentally, I did learn that you would have to have MacGyver kind of skills to earn the Eagle Scout Award. Later, as I worked on Jesse’s article, I suddenly remembered something I’d seen in my mama’s old photo album. I pulled it out, and sure enough, there it was: A picture of an eight-year-old girl proudly smiling in a Girl Scout uniform. The rest of the story was that my sweet mama came home from work and not only met the strangers across the street, but figured out a way for me to join Girl Scouts. I only went long enough to get the uniform, but the realization of what could be so vividly remembered and somehow forgotten really hit home. As I looked at that girl with the short ugly haircut I begged to get because I hated to brush my hair, I remembered that I’d been a Girl Scout perhaps for a day or two. More importantly, I remembered the way my mama loved me. And since I never really told her about getting my tongue stuck to the freezer, I reckon I’ll leave that part out when I ask if she remembers the day I wanted to be a Girl Scout. ��TCM The Picture I Forgot to Remember e ch o


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