Middle Aged Treehouse

I'm only mature in years.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A long way, baby

Today was Halloween, the high holy day for certain creative and theatrical types.

I broke out an old favorite — a homemade reproduction vintage Brownie costume cobbled together in women's size 14 splendor— to wear to work. I had previously used it for a "Come as you were" New Year's Eve party in 2000.

It's nearly bedtime as I write this, and I'm still wearing it, brown felt beanie and all. But hey, that's why this place is called the Middle Aged Treehouse.

The accessory that garnered the most attention today wasn't the beanie. It was my 1965 official Brownie handbook. This book, I discovered with a little Googling, was printed in 1963 and was used by Girl Scouts of America until 1975.

My female coworkers howled over the pages with titles like "What does Mother do?" illustrated with charming drawings of good Brownies watching the baby, serving snacks from a tray while wearing an apron, and vacuuming. "Tools to help around the house" included of course, the vacuum, an eggbeater, and a dustpan. The craft section of the book showed how to create an adorable dog sculpture from rocks and airplane cement to "decorate Father's desk."

"Holy shit!" my editor, Nancy laughed loudly, but I could tell there was thinly veiled resentment lurking in that snort. "Look at the messages we were being brainwashed with."

"You think that's bad?" I said. "Check this out."

I took Nancy and Mark on a quick online trip to eBay to see one of the board games that lived in the house where I grew up.

The box of this Milton Bradley favorite featured a color illustration of a family enjoying a lively game of Battleship: A father and son sit at a card table. Dad is shown holding what looks like a plastic ship nearly the length of his hand (They must have been a Munchkin family, since the actual game pieces were about 2 inches in size, tops) and laughing goodnaturedly with the words "It's a HIT!" dancing near his beaming face.

Just behind Dad's shoulder, in the background, is a mom wearing a shirtwaist dress and apron, washing dishes while the daughter helps dry.

Mark, born in 1979, was aghast. A quick eBay search showed that this box design was replaced in 1971 with a picture of a boy and girl playing.

I was born in the late 1950's. What was it that kept me from buying into the June Cleaver thing?

Cool parents, for one thing. Even though my mom was June Cleaver, she didn't encourage me to be.

Plus, I think I was just not wired that way.

For a brief time, I remember wanting to build a Soap Box Derby car with my dad. When I found out girls were not allowed, I just shrugged it off, but a couple years later I did go to my pastor to inquire why our church had never had female acolytes. (Thank you, Pastor Roger, for letting Cindy and I be the first girl candlelighters ever at Peace church.)

That Brownie handbook is filled with my seven-year-old scrawl: my careful signature, lopsided drawings of trefoil shapes, my own handwritten rendition of the Girl Scout Promise. To see what I wrote in one of the fill-in-the-blank pages delighted me, and explains a lot about my life:

I can help at home by ______________.

The word I filled in was "thinking."


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