So now I present to you, The Face of Friendship.
The Face of Friendship
R. A. Meenan
I’ll never forget the day I joined Debbie Rees’ brownie Girl Scout troop.
That’s the day I met The Face.
I was always a shy kid. Despite my crazy ADHD nature, I was as introverted as they come. Nothing short of a Personal Space Invasion could get me out of my shell.
Well, lucky for me, The Face had a Ph. D. in Personal Space Invasion.
My mom and I arrived early for the meeting at a neighborhood junior high auditorium. That in itself terrified me. Being seven, junior high was outside of my realm of experience, but being homeschooled meant that school buildings might as well have been aliens. The massive gray steps and overhanging mascot sent my little seven-year-old heart into panic mode.
But nothing could prepare me for The Face.
Mom led me into the cavernous auditorium. Four long gray tables had been pulled from the walls and a scattered handful of girls sat in various seats building something with globs of glue and Popsicle sticks. A brown haired girl ran back and forth between all the girls, asking questions and helping out.
The troop leader, a tall, thin women with long blonde hair, smiled when we walked in. “Hello! Welcome! This must be Rachel.” She leaned over and grinned at me.
I hid behind Mom’s legs.
Mom made introductions and talked about my shyness. I ran through every excuse I could come up with in my head to never come back again.
And then it happened. The Face.
A giant grinning face with brown eyes and crazy brown hair whipped around my mom’s legs and stared me right in the eye.
I sunk further behind Mom’s legs. “…Hi.”
“I’m Karen! What’s your name?”
“Okay, Rachel! You’re going to be my new best friend!” The Face grabbed my arm and yanked me from behind Mom. She dragged me toward the tables chattering about the troop. “Here’s the snacks, and here’s our craft for today, and here’s the badge we’re gonna work on, it’s all about nature, it’s so cool! and we’re gonna sing songs, and you can do grace with me, and--”
I desperately turned back to Mom, but she was already halfway out the door, waving and promising to come back later.
No! Come back now!
But she was gone.
The Face sat me down on a bench seat and threw two bottles of glue and a mess of Popsicle sticks in front of me. “We’re making houses! You should make one too!” She dragged over a structure of sticks, glue globs, green felt, and red glitter. “This one’s mine!”
I pretended to be interested in the sticks in front of me. “…That’s great.”
I glued a handful of sticks together and soon I had a basic structure. More girls walked into the room until our full troop, a meager eight kids, had finally arrived.
Our leader, Mrs. Rees, declared it was snack time. “Who wants to sing grace?”
The Face grabbed my arm and waved both our hands in the air. “We do, Mom, we do!”
Oh my gosh, The Face was the leader’s daughter? So much for hoping she’d never show up again!
“Go ahead, Karen,” Mrs. Rees said.
The Face stood up and made me stand up too. “Just follow along, Rachel!” She tilted her head back and burst into song.
We thank you for this food God!
For Mom and Dad and You, God!
We thank you for this food, God!
To get us through the day!
I cringed. It was the Adams Family Grace. The Face followed the verse with a series of “Na-na-na-nas!” and snapping. “Come on, Rachel, you snap too!”
Like I had a choice.
We thank you, God, for giving!
This food we need for living!
And so we ask your blessing!
Because we love you so!
We ended with a violent “Let’s eat!” and dug into a snack of pretzels and lemonade.
The day pretty much continued that way. The Face declared me her daylong partner and we worked together on badges, worksheets, clean up, and of course songs. Lots and lots of songs.
What on Earth had I gotten myself into?
When Mom came to get me, I was more than ready to go home. Mom asked me how my day went.
All the excuses from the start of the meeting floated into consciousness, but I couldn’t grab any of them strongly enough to articulate.
“It was okay.”
“Just okay?” Mom asked.
“Yeah. Just okay.”
Mom was silent for a few seconds. “Do you want to come back?”
I thought of all the activities I did with The Face – with Karen – and frowned. Did I?
Karen made me feel welcome. She insisted we were friends at a time when I had no friends. She didn’t know that of course, but it was the truth. She made the other girls be nice to me when no other troop had done that.
Did I want to go back? Actually…. yeah. Yeah I did. “Sure. I’ll try again.”
Mom smiled and we went home.
23 years later, Karen Rees is still my best friend. We’ve shared everything together and grown up into young women (both teachers!) that love each other and love God. I’m so very blessed to have met The Face that day. It was The Face of Friendship.
And that, as they say, is history. Happy Valentine's Day everyone. =)