Sometimes a change of subject can be an aging Brownie's best friend: "So, what do you do when you're not selling cookies?" I ask, deftly sidestepping the bris question. Manon tells me about family ice-skating day and a sleepover on the Intrepid. They all talk about a father-and-daughter luncheon cruise and a mother-and-daughter ceramics-making party.

"My daughter would love that," I say.

They are surprised to hear I have a daughter. "Is she home with your husband?" Molly wants to know. "She's at ballet right now." "And then your husband picks her up?" Molly is taking on a certain Mike Wallace quality. "I'm not married," I say. "Wait a minute, you had a baby but you're not married?" Olivia asks. I take a deep breath. "A bris is when—"

"Who's ready for cookies?" our troop leader mercifully jumps in. We snack and check out our bird collages, then the Daisies and Brownies form a circle. Could this be that elusive award ceremony I've been waiting for? No. It's time to repeat the Girl Scout Law:

"I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout."

I actually find being strong kind of overrated, and people in positions of authority generally have to earn my respect. But all in all, I'd say it's a pretty good pledge—and the girls seem to be sticking to it. They support each other, laugh together, and still manage to maintain their individuality. Ella's bird collage has the earrings and false eyelashes to prove it.

Could it be that an outsider is really just a Brownie waiting to be asked in? That the right group of women will always welcome a few eccentricities? "You know, there's a lot to be said for belonging to something, for not going it alone every single day," I tell my troop leader as I look to see if there's anything stronger than a juice box with which to wash down my cookie. "Really," I say, "I can imagine coming every week." My leader looks alarmed. "I mean, just until I earn a merit badge."

It turns out, meriting a badge is easier than it looks. I am instantly presented with one—but they must be so anxious to make sure I get home safely that I'm escorted out the door before I can even give the acceptance speech that's been burning a hole in my pocket for more than 40 years.

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