Den mothers pass out paste and construction paper, glitter and magic markers, and we settle into our places here in the church basement at Saint Joseph's Parish of Yorkville and begin to design our bird collages. "Eewww," 6-year-old Audrey proclaims as her hands hit the paste. "Oh, please," I tell her, "you think that's icky, try scrubbing three-day-old lasagna off a Pyrex baking dish."

In retrospect, this might've been the moment when it first became apparent that, to quote Sesame Street, "one of these things is not like the others." There were many such moments. Ella, Mercedes, and Lily had all lost teeth. "My gums are starting to recede!" I say, trying to build a little camaraderie. Here's the bottom line: When someone wants to know your favorite color, "taupe" is not the answer that'll get you put in charge of food coloring when it comes time to frost cupcakes. It's not pretty when a table full of grade-schoolers look at you with pity. "Maybe you should try the Brownies," says Nia T. Montero, pointing to a troop across the room. "But I thought you guys were Brownies," I say. "No, that's for when we grow up." Lilliana chimes in. "Actually," she adds, "when I grow up, I'm going to be a waiter. For now, we're all Daisies."

"We didn't have Daisies when I was a kid. We didn't even—" But before I can get into how there were only three TV channels and I could have bought a penthouse on Central Park West for $35, they are off to donate the cans of food they brought in. Who knew I was supposed to bring canned goods? My quest for a badge has hit a major snag.

I wander over to the table where the Brownies are sitting: The six girls in my new troop range in age from 8 to 10. Today they are supposed to interview somebody, and it's been decided that I'm "it." If the Daisies have taught me nothing else, it's that receding gums does not an icebreaker make, so I tell them that I've always wanted to be a Brownie, and wait for the questions to come.

Molly's hand shoots up. "Do you know any famous people?" she asks. Olivia and Nia (not to be confused with my Daisy pals of the same names) decide to get specific: "Have you ever met Lady Gaga?" I tell them no, but to let them down easy, I add that before there was a Lady Gaga, legend has it that my Aunt Sondra wore vinyl hot pants and a tube top to a bris in New Jersey. "What are hot pants?" asks Anaise. "What's a bris?" asks Amberly.

Cookie time, Girl Scout Law and what it really takes to earn that merit badge


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