Today is a tale of hurt in a different situation: an adult to a child. Because careless words, even if not meant to be malicious, can hurt. Nancy C shares her story, how such a seemingly small thing made an impact, and how her mother helped her heal.
* * *
My mom let me wear my hair down that night. It rested on my shoulders, a silky curtain.
It was my Brownie Bridging Ceremony.
I waited with my tribe in brown. My sash was pressed and pinned to my shoulder to prevent slippage. My beanie was bobby-pinned to the back of my head. My mother noticed details.
Each of us was to walk across a small footbridge, placed awkwardly in Mrs. G’s sunken living room. Before “bridging” from first-year scouts (this was pre-Daisy days) to full-fledged Brownie-dom, we were to stand before the troop leader, shake her hand, and receive a pin and a carnation. Then we were supposed to cross the bridge, to presumably more exciting levels of cookie sales and campfire songs.
Mrs. G called her daughter up first. “I want to take a moment to say something special about each girl. For Heather, I must say that she is kind. I love her so much.” They hugged, and Heather floated across the bridge, beaming.
I stared at the bouquet of carnations, studying each pink, folded leaf. I couldn’t wait to hold mine, to hear my special words.
Amanda walked across, “Adorable.” Then Jamie took her turn. She was, “Intelligent.” Maria was “Friendly,” Julie was “Funny,” and Hannah, lucky Hannah was “Pretty.”
Mrs. G called my name. “Nancy. Nancy is many things, but the word that describes her best is….Talkative. Very, very talkative.”
Heather giggled from the other side of the bridge. Amanda joined in.
My face burned, as Mrs.G’s smile grew wider. She handed me my carnation. I blinked back my tears and shook her icy hand. “Thank you,” I mumbled.
Once across that bridge, I slumped next to the Kind, Intelligent, Pretty, Friendly, Adorable, and Funny ones. They chattered to each other. I, the Talkative One, wordlessly studied my carnation, noting the pink was already rotting to brown.
I threw it in the trash can as soon as we got home. My mother kissed me goodnight, then picked up the phone.
The following year, my mother was the new Brownie leader. I did not cross the bridge without her.
She silenced the mean adults, and helped me find my voice once more.
- Nancy C.