How will the cookies crumble?

Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2009

The cookies made me wince. There were mountains of them, and when the cookie mom said, "Nope, they're all yours. You want help bringing them to your car?" I wondered if there was room to wedge them in alongside the ski gear living in the back until the snow melts.

It is March and the Girl Scout Cookies are here.

I am not ashamed to admit I am not the kind of mom who sells stuff. When the school sold wrapping paper, we were our daughter's only sale. Raffle tickets? I buy them only out of guilt, and cringe when asked to sell them. I'd rather write a check to a group than spend my time selling people stuff they don't want but can't refuse.

But here I was with 100 boxes of Girl Scout cookies piled in my living room. My daughter, the one who "sold" these cookies, fell asleep at 6:30 leaving me to a solo sorting.

As it turns out, it wasn't bad. The boxes, colorful and tidy, were uniform and yet slightly different, each with a pleasing heft. They rattled a slightly plastic sound, leaving the impression that each cookie was wholly protected and safe. The perfect corners and snug fit of the boxes in the case were reassuring, leaving me feeling that even these boxes, bound to be tossed faster than you can say "Thin Mint," were painstakingly engineered for the optimal Girl Scout experience.

I finished the sorting, and the bottom of my daughter's sales list greeted me like a weight in my stomach. I had purposely not let her sell to anyone who was not at our workplaces. I remembered my own time as a Girl Scout, watching my boxes of cookies sit at our house, week after week, my parents unable or unwilling to make the effort to distribute them. Every day they sat I would feel more guilty, and finally, when the money was due, my parents would just pay for the cookies and keep them rather than dealing with the burden of those little boxes.

Now I know that most people don't even remember ordering cookies and would not be heartbroken if a few boxes didn't arrive. But, in my determination to not repeat the things which characterized my own childhood, I set the workplace limit.

Except this one order. There was no hope I would see this woman anywhere without picking up the phone. Her cookies are like a crispy, coconut covered sword of Damocles in on my carpet.

Most of our cookies will be gone by Friday. But the question remains: how do I deal with the one order? One of us will have to pick up the phone and call the woman, a kind person, but nearly a complete stranger. I know I am not good at this. So do I train my daughter now, help her make that phone call, hoping that when she is an adult, this will be an early memory of cookie fortitude? Will it remind her of a time when even though the work filled the living room, she got it done, not letting unfulfilled cookie promises linger?

Each box has three words on it: courage, character, confidence. Maybe this is a reminder that each of these traits evolves from tiny steps, like picking up the phone and getting rid of the final boxes.

• Marie Ryan McMillan is a parent and teacher in Juneau.

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