So let me tell you about these merit badges. I can't express in words how much I love badges. I cannot walk by an army navy store without going in to dig through their patch bins. I even love the name patches on utility shirts. Why is this? I'm sure it originated in my childhood (as the root of all obsessions do) when I was a member of several badge-driven activity clubs, starting, of course, with the Girl Scouts. Though my memory of actual events in the Girl Scouts is hazy, I can remember the badges so clearly I can feel the stitches. I was crazy about the badges, and how they would fit on my sash, and how much space should be left between them in order that I could fit many more.
(Brownie "Puppets, Plays, & Theater" badge!)
In sharper focus is my memory of the club I left Girl Scouts for, the Indian Princesses. Yes you read that right. Though now considered inappropriately named and apparently disowned by the YMCA which founded it, this was back in the 70s before they figured that out. Indian Princesses was a bigger deal to me then Girl Scouts because Indian Princesses was a father-daughter outdoor club, and I was the only girl I knew whose father had died, making it impossible for me to join. But my best friend Whitney lent me her dad, and the three of us went to Indian Princess club together. We made native american inspired crafts, went hiking, and tacked badges of accomplishments onto the tan felt vests we wore. It was marvelous. I mean, look at this!
(That's not me, by the way, that's an amazing web find.) We had to come up with an "Indian" name for ourselves. I was at a loss, so a girl in the club gave me the name of her retired sister. It was "Morning Dove", a name I see listed on the remaining Indian Princess club websites. Of course, the bird "mourning dove" is spelled so because it sounds like it is lamenting, which was more appropriate for me then I understood back then.
And all during this time I took very formal, regimented figure skating classes with a USFSA club, with its highly organized system of testing to promote future Dorothy Hamills through levels. Which was recognized with: patches. I was crazy most of all about these patches, probably because they were the hardest to earn. My mum sewed them onto the left sleeve of a red Scandinavian patterned zip up sweater, which I wore to the ice rink with a ridiculous amount of pride.
(That IS me. I wish you could see the sleeve!) I would sit and study these patches for hours, and dream of the next one with its new 2 color combination, which I could see in the window of the skate rink office.
And even when my family moved to a rural area with no scouts or princesses or ice rinks, I still managed to fall into a patch-club by becoming a 4-H'er.
And then I grew up, and nothing I did, no matter how accomplished and hard, would earn me a badge. I find this inexplicably unfair! Adults put immeasurable thought and effort into making fun, creative, and meaningful experiences for children, but we completely neglect ourselves and each other of the same. And I don't think it's that adults aren't interested in things like badges. In just a few hours I've taken dozens of requests for Irene merit badges. I'm not sure, but I suspect it's that we're all trying to give the impression that we're grown ups, when deep down we all know we're not, and we think we'd better hide it. But I wouldn't wish that kind of growing-up on any kid. I'd wish them a lifetime of striving for new experiences, with a beautifully stitched badge to mark each one. And so I've gotten into the habit of making badges for my friends for all kinds of things we've gone through together. This was for the first time two of my friends and I got brave enough to do a marching band street performance. We called ourselves the Boom Boom Brigade:
All of my work has the purpose of bringing playfulness and enthusiasm back into adulthood. I love working with kids because they teach me how to do this, and they alone can remind me what is really meaningful so that I can bring that back to the grown ups. Kids are my teachers. Grown ups are my life mission.
So, this is how I take the news that a big portion of Vermont is in trouble, especially my hometown of Wilmington which was totally wrecked by Irene. With collapsed roads the town got cut off, people were unable to locate their families, people lost their houses and businesses. The famous 1938 flood mark on Town Hall I always assumed was exaggerated, was surpassed. Because I couldn't get there to help or get any information, I drew while I anxiously waited to hear from my friends.
The Girl Scout's Juliette Gordon Low said this: "Badges show that you have done something so often and so well that you can teach it to someone else." Vermonters, and many people in other states, have a long haul ahead to put their lives and communities back together. By the time roads and houses are rebuilt, they will be experts. As in tragedies that happen everywhere all the time, most of them won't get any recognition for what they've been through. I made this for my friends because I want them to know they are seen.
There are lots of ways to help, by the way, from financial donations, to physical volunteering. Here's some pages with good resources:
(I'm relieved to report that my mom is a-ok.)