An excerpt from Is That The Shirt You’re Wearing? a collection of essays by Kristen Hansen Brakeman
It was the time of year that instilled dread and fear in the hearts of parents across the country. College application deadline? No. Pre-holiday frenzy? No. Something much, much more worse, and more stressful than I could have ever imagined — the annual Girl Scout Cookie sales drive.
My three daughters had recently joined the Girl Scouts so I was well aware that selling the famous cookies loomed in our future. In fact, I even looked forward to it. After all, what could be more American? More wholesome? More gosh, darn fun?
But my excitement quickly waned when I found out just how many boxes the girls were expected to sell — not five, not ten — no, each troop leader expected my girls to sell 50 to 75 boxes! To make matters worse, rumors floated around about previous sales drives and how one overzealous scout sold upwards of 700 boxes!
These had to be fish stories. Children are prone to exaggeration, right? Turns out they weren’t. Evidently, the parents of these super bionic salesgirls took the order forms to their offices and gently suggested that their subordinates make purchases.
“Uh, sure Mr. Jenkins, put me down for 12 of your daughter’s $5.00 cookie boxes. I’ll just cancel my cable service so I can afford them. I really shouldn’t be watching that much TV anyway.”
That wasn’t going to happen in our house. My girls needed to sell cookies the old-fashioned way, door-to-door, facing success and rejection head-on as originally intended.
We headed out on day one, eager to make a sale and finally meet those neighbors. After all, what better way to get to know them than to ask them for money? Off we went, plotting a course down our San Francisco-like hilly street, pen and lengthy blank order form in hand.
It’s funny; I never noticed all the security gates and fencing encircling most of our neighbors’ properties before this sales venture. These Buckingham Palace-like homes were indeed intimidating. We rationalized that after spending so much money on elaborate fencing, they probably could not afford cookies so we skipped these particular houses. Besides, their intercom technology confused us.
Not easily discouraged, I suggested we try the next street over, one that is even more steep than our own. But, soon the girls started to get winded and whiny and I could tell they were losing their will to live, let alone sell a box of cookies. We passed three more gated properties and struck out at two empty houses before reaching the highest point of the street and amazingly, we finally heard footsteps coming to answer the door.
A friendly Dad-like figure greeted us. Yay! Our first sale!
Or so we thought. “Oh, Girl Scout cookies? I think my wife may have bought some already. Why don’t you come back in an hour?” he said, casually, as if he had never noticed that he lived on a street that rivals the height of Mt. McKinley.
“Uh sure. We’ll do that,” I said through gritted teeth as we walked away. But then, once the door was shut, I lost it.
“Why don’t you come back in an hour?” I said mockingly over and over again. “He’s got a million dollar house, a Hummer in the driveway, and he can’t fork out five measly bucks for a box of cookies? Why that…” My kids had to grab a hold of me to calm me down. I think one of them may have slapped me.
“Let it go, Mom. It’s okay. There will be other sales. Don’t worry,” my kids said, sympathetically.
But I knew better. This old-fashioned door-to-door crap wasn’t going to cut it. If I had any hope of meeting those quotas I was going to have to give in and take point on this project.
Unfortunately, neither my husband nor I have, um, regular jobs or co-workers to pester so I had to throw myself on the mercy of my friends and relatives. I sent out this email:
“Dear Friends and Family:
As you may know, Samantha, Chloe and Peyton have joined the Girl Scouts and Brownies. The annual Girl Scout cookie sale has begun and we need to satisfy a sales quota for each child. To that end, I ask that each of you buy 56 boxes. I’ve attached an order form for your convenience. And, please include two forms of identification on your personal check, especially you Uncle Walter.”
Strangely, the orders have been slow coming in. But I believe this whole adventure has been a good learning experience for the kids — something about business successes and failures and the importance of living on flat streets. I’m not sure.
But I do know one thing — I won’t be buying all the unsold cookies myself. I’ve heard of lots of parents doing exactly that. No way.
That’s what grandparents are for.
Is That The Shirt You’re Wearing? by Kristen Hansen Brakeman is a collection of comic and poignant essays about life and parenting.
Buy a copy for Mother’s Day! Or, maybe two!