I was in fourth grade at the time and a very proud member of the local Girl Scout Troop. We would wear our green uniforms with accompanying sash on meeting days. I would also sport the little green beret attaching it to my fine blond hair with a bobby pin. Our meetings would be in my old kindergarten room. We would put our books and coats to the side and gather in the middle of the room to recite our promise while holding up our three middle fingers on our right hand.
“On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.”
One of the older girls would then read the Girl Scout Law. We would pay our dues. The Girl Scout Leader would speak. This meeting stood out. She was inviting us all over to her house for a Christmas party. There would be a gift exchange. Everyone would bring a wrapped gift for a certain amount of money. We were not to tell anyone what it was to keep everything a surprise. I was so excited. We had a few gift exchanges at school where we brought in a wrapped gift that costed no more than a dollar. I liked surprises.
Finally, it was the day before the party and my parents still had not taken me to get my gift. I was getting frantic. We were looking in the grocery store’s toy aisle for a gift. My father was getting short-tempered with me as all the toys were either over the allotted amount or for boys. “Look, Angela,” said my father in a raised voice, “Pick out something you would like to receive as a gift.” Problem solved.
After bringing in the groceries from the car, I went up to my room and wrapped my treasure adding a pretty bow. I could not wait to see who would get mine. The next afternoon, my father drove me to the leader’s house dropping me off to return in a few hours. I walked into the leader’s house. There was a beautiful room to my left all done in white with a red velvet sash across the doorway blocking anyone from entering. I went downstairs to find a large Christmas tree decorated with all sorts of lovely ornaments. Someone took my gift and put a number on it before placing it under that tree. There were other girls already in the basement. It was the first basement I had ever seen with a full kitchen and game room. I was stunned to see a large closet full of food. I had never seen or known what a pantry was before that afternoon.
I do not remember the activities that went on except for eating cookies and punch, singing carols, and then the gift exchange. We picked a number out of the box waiting until everyone received a piece of paper. “Okay, girls. You will go find the gift matching the number you picked. Sit back down, but do not open your gift yet. We are going to open them all together. Please let us know if you drew your own gift.”
We excitedly looked for our matching gift. I could not see who picked mine. My gift was a tiny rectangle. I had no idea what it could possibly be with such a small shape. “Okay. Does everyone have a gift?” “Yes!” “Anyone pick their own?” No one answered. “Okay, open your gift.” I took the paper off my tiny gift and saw that it was a little white box. I took off the lid to find two reindeer pins. Jewelry. I did not have any jewelry except for a few necklaces. I had no idea at that time in my life that jewelry usually came in little boxes like these. I was so happy. A nice girl sitting next to me learned over, “You picked mine. Do you like them?” she whispered. “I love them. Thank you.” I answered smiling.
I suddenly heard one of the older girls yell, “BOOKS! BOOKS! Who bought stupid books?” and then threw them across the floor. They were mine. I was horrified and could feel myself getting hot. The nice girl next to me quietly said, “I would loved to have received books.” I did not look up. I was trying not to cry. My throat hurt as I desperately tried to hide that I was the one who bought the stupid books. The other girls had not noticed. They were all chattering and chirping about their gifts. I fake smiled the rest of the party until it was time to go.
The leader gave each of us a small wrapped box before we left telling us to not open it until Christmas Day. I now was wise to what came in small boxes like these. My father came to pick me up. “How did the party go?” he asked as we pulled out of the driveway. “Fine,” I answered from the back seat. My heart hurt all the way home as we drove home in the dark. I remember wiping away tears so that no none would see how hurt I was. Three books. Who would not want to have books for Christmas? I kept thinking. My dad would NEVER have bought me books, since they were free at the library. I was so baffled.
Christmas day came, and I opened my Girl Scout gift. Everyone had received a little golden necklace with an owl pendant. I never wore the necklace but still have it. It reminds me of the time I learned that not everyone wants books for Christmas.