birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


When I was in 3rd grade, I was entranced by the girls in school I would see with a Brownie outfit. Their little militant brown uniforms, matching socks and little beanie hat. They looked so neat and pristine. And they belonged together, in a select troop, but above us others who were not in their society. And the badges and medals... how I loved organization and labels at the time, so different from my disorganized, ever-changing home.

Tracy was a Brownie. She was a blonde, blue-eyed, quiet but assertive little girl, the teacher's pet in Mrs. Watson's class. When I arrived at Bellview Elementary, I too, was lumped in with Tracy, as I had a very high reading-level and was allowed to miss some of class with her to work as an assistant in the library, shelving books for part of the day. Tracy never became my good friend, but we were friendly, and I enjoyed hearing her talk about aspirations to be an architect, and her otherwise normal, tv-type middle class life. I really coveted her Brownie outfit and its presumed gateway to a network of other Tracy-like friends.

In 4th grade, Tracy moved away, but I then became best friends with her best friend, Terri. Terri was also in the Girl Scout Troop, now Juniors. Unfortunately, I learned that they were a closed group... but that's ok, my mother completed a form and found a new troop for me that was starting up. I was so excited to go and look at the elements of this little club, that had its own corner of the department store. Wow, all the colors and ties and accessories... Juniors wore green, and they had a vest, and culottes,a spiffy green and white shirt with trefoils imprinted upon it, socks, and a little necktie. These elements added up to lots of money at the cash register -- money my waitress mom did not have. Besides, the only required part of the uniform was the sash.

But, as was often the case in those days, Grandma S. came to the rescue. A loving and organized hoarder of sentiment, she had not gotten rid of her youngest daughter's Girl Scout uniform -- a green one-piece romper from the 1950's. In actuality it was much cuter than the 1980's version of the uniform, but of course I was appalled. Not only could I not belong with the afore-mentioned closed-troop girls, I didn't really look like I belonged with anybody. Just another aspect of not fitting in with most groups -- not even my mom's family with my dark skin and love of reading and math. Still, I took one of the lessons of life, take what you get and don't pitch a fit, right?

I guess the Girl Scout uniform is another example of my chance for re-doing life, fitting in, for my own daughter. Now in my forties, I am a GS Leader and my daughter has every aspect of any uniform, including extra identifying t-shirts, headbands, and jewelry. Does she wear these things? Not often (except the occasional t-shirt, but lately only the black one).

The Hat