Mom was my troop leader. She was gorgeous (as you can see), cheerful in public and HATED EVERY MINUTE OF scouting, She couldn't BELIEVE that I wanted to join. Rolled her eyes, compared Girl Scouts to the brown shirts and the Hitler Youth--really. Which was kind of harsh considering that she is largely German; her own mom was first-generation in America. But she joined the scouts herself to make sure, I guess, that I didn't get the spark squished out of me by wearing a uniform. Which didn't mean I got cut any slack on merit badges; I really had to do EVERY requirement. But it did mean I got to carry the flag.
Mom should have had a music career. She should have stayed in college. My parents were that rare, undercover thing: lefty intellectuals in Westchester County in the 50's and 60's. Our house wasn't like other kids' houses. There were political meetings at our house. And there was my mom, still practicing piano every night, long after she dropped out of Barnard and went to secretarial school.
I got tortured in elementary school for stuff like knowing who Tchaikovsky was and imitating the Dying Swan from Swan Lake in music class. Hey, how would I know that wasn't cool? But in Girl Scouts, my mom was the troop leader, and so I got to carry the flag. I got to carry the flag even though Mom hated the whole idea of flags probably as much as she hated what women of her generation were supposed to love: the daily grind. The carpool to the City. Dictation from men half as bright as she was. The mess my sister and my father and I made of the house. Her own crazy parents and auntie. All of it. She had to do ALL OF IT. It was what women did then.
So yeah, when I was older, I did teach myself how to sing and play guitar, and Mom let me know in no uncertain terms when I was off-key, shrill, and affected in my vocal delivery. Apparently, that was pretty often. I did disappoint her with my lack of music-reading skill on piano, and so she did give up on teaching me to play. And I did manage to piss her (and my dad) off so much one snowy night that I DID get chucked out of the house. But not for singing. Never for singing.
Fiction is a true lie. I am Bean, the heroine of my new book--but I'm also really, really not her.
Likewise, my mom is not Juuulia. Juuulia has my mom's smarts and her evil wit and her energy. But Juuulia wouldn't have joined Girl Scouts to make sure her fragile older daughter didn't get the bohemian beaten out of her.
Mom made me do all the requirements. It's not a bad lesson to learn, that. In fact, it probably is why I got through writing the book and finding it a publisher. Here it is on Amazon, by the way, if you'd like a copy.