When, in 1983, Brownie troop 2476 had their “bridging” ceremony to Junior Girl Scouts, I was not present; and perhaps my old troop never “bridged” at all.
In Girl Scout language, a bridging ceremony honors the transition girls make from one level of Girl Scouting to another. Often times family and friends gather to witness as each girl sheds her former vest or sash in exchange for her next one, symbolizing her entrance into the next stage of Girl Scout growth.
Between my 3rd and 4th grade years my family made one of many moves; this time from a beloved D.C. neighborhood to suburban Maryland. What made this move far more significant than any of those preceding it was that this time, I actually cared…a lot. For the first time I felt part of a loving, grounded, inclusive community, one where I experienced myself as a special and integral part. Considering the place from where we had come, this was not simply a fortunate accident, it was a critically needed gift.
The significance of my mother, sister and I having landed among such a vibrant network of people came after years of turmoil and chaos. My mother endured unspeakable torment and violence at the hands of my biological father before leaving the marriage with two young girls in tow. Though “Stanley” was granted regular visitation with my sister and I for several more years, he willingly consented to the termination of his paternal rights. My mother recalls, “When he heard he would no longer have to pay child support he asked, ‘Where do I sign?'” Incidentally, this legality also freed my sister and I from the clutches of a sadistic pedophile. With great relief and a new-found sense of freedom, my mother and her new husband were ready to make a fresh start.
At my last Brownie meeting before our move, I sat unusually quiet as we wrapped up the afternoon’s activities. “Mrs. Tanner,” my best friend’s mom and our brownie troop leader, hushed the others in order to present me with a special going away gift from the group. When I ripped into the paper I found a small rectangular shaped box covered in soft red fabric. Brown teddy bears and white heart balloons dotted the special keepsake. And contained within its soft padded insides were hand written notes of good luck from each of my ‘sisters’ sitting in the circle.
Despite my ongoing intention to release “stuff” (both physical and mental), the box presented to me that day remains safely tucked away with my own 34-year-old Brownie vest. The bears smiling faces are faded and worn, but they fill my heart nonetheless with my Brownie family…my safe harbor amidst confusion and trauma.
I was happily present today when my own 3rd grade daughter crossed the bridge into Junior Girl Scouts. Only now, in part thanks to troop 2476 of years ago, I am on the other side of the bridge, ready to welcome her.