Wednesday, May 17, 2023
I got an email from Peaceful Pastures today, one of the local farms where we buy milk and eggs, that included a story about a Girl Scout trip. Instead of going camping like the girls in all the pictures and on cookie box packaging, this particular troop stayed in a hotel in Lexington, Kentucky where they sunned under lamps and went to a palm-tree-laden spa.
I never made it to Girl Scout status – I was a Brownie until we moved out of the Bronx and my troop days were left behind – but still, that trip seemed suspect. I think the word used in the email was “unorthodox.”
It did, however, get me thinking about my time as a Brownie.
I don’t remember much of anything interesting about being a Brownie. We certainly didn’t take any trips, camping or otherwise.
I do remember selling cookies, and by I remember selling cookies I mean I remember my father selling cookies to everyone he worked with. I was eight in the Bronx. My parents weren’t about to let me go door to door.
To this day I have a few patches to prove my father’s sales skills.
I also remember the Pillow. It’s the Pillow that I want to tell you about today.
I don’t know why this particular memory is so vivid, or why strange things want to be so prominent in my head. But I remember one troop project when we were supposed to make pillows.
My grandmother gave me some blue and red plaid cotton fabric from her flower shop, and I cut it into two circles, and painstakingly sewed around the circumference, leaving a little opening for stuffing.
Then came stuffing day, and I remember being in what doubled as the cafeteria of St. Frances of Rome school with my troop. We did crafts in the cafeteria, which always seemed like a foreign country to me because only kids who got Hot Lunch went to the cafeteria. I always had Cold Lunch, which meant my mother made my sandwiches and put them in a lunchbox and sent me on my way.
Hot Lunch kids and Cold Lunch kids ate on a completely separate floor. So the cafeteria was a strange and unknown place, marginally intimidating to a kid who brought sandwiches to school in a lunchbox.
We had to bring our own stuffing materials for stuffing day, and I guess the instructions were that we could use fabric scraps or other bits and pieces of squishy things found around the house, because my mother sent me with a bag full of old nylons that she and my grandmother had collected especially for this project.
Nothing about this made an impression on me until I was sitting around a table with a bunch of other kids, including Christina Vecchiarelli who terrified me because she was loud and bossy, even though by today’s standards she was merely a bit rambunctious.
Poor Christina, last I saw her she was nine years old but I still remember her name and her poof of Lucy Van Pelt black curls.
When it came time to stuff our pillows I realized that the majority of the other kids had actual stuffing, the white fluffy kind you get at a craft store. I know that’s what Christina Vecchiarelli had, anyway. And I had….
a bag full of used underwear.
Now, I know my mother didn’t peel her nylons off and stick them in a plastic bag for me to put into my pillow. But that mattered not a whit.
I was mortified. I stuck my bag of nylons under the table and told the troop leaders that I forgot my stuffing. I did not stuff.
When I got home with my unstuffed pillow and my mother asked me why I hadn’t finished it, I repeated the story that I forgot. She was understandably perplexed, seeing as how she had dropped me off at school with a bag of nylons and I had spent an hour in the cafeteria and come home with an empty pillow and a bag of nylons. Not sure where I “forgot” them to, but they stayed forgot.
I most certainly did not say I was mortified by her nylons.
At some point I stuffed and sewed up my pillow under dark of night, in secret, where nobody would ever know what went into it.
I don’t know whatever became of that pillow.
Or Christina Vecchiarelli. I suspect she is a very nice lady with no memory of me and my nylons. Maybe she had a daughter who was at least a little neurotic, you never know.
Photo: my fourth grade class at St. Frances of Rome, the last one I was in before we moved. In case you can’t pick out Christina from her hair, she is in the rear row of girls, last on the right. I’m not going to tell you where I am. Come on, do I have to do EVERYTHING?