ON HAND: My most embarrassing moment

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

I was eight. We were having our fly-up ceremony, to mark our moving up from the rank of Brownie to Junior Girl Scout. My troop was exceptionally large at the time — over 30 girls, and my mom was one of the four assistant leaders (by default, she also was my interpreter since she could speak well).

Trudy serving as a flag-bearer in her Brownie Girl Scout outfit.I got selected by the leaders to be one of the flag bearers for the ceremony, held in the school cafeteria. We were spruced up in our brown dresses, white-and brown striped shirts, and brown knee-high socks with ridiculous orange tassels.

After marching around the packed cafeteria, we went into an enclosed room, where we excitedly prepared for the rest of the ceremony. Mom told me that the assistant leaders had decided to begin the ceremony with a group song.  The song was about an elf that could see itself in a mirror, and involved skipping in a circle around a mirror on the floor, leaning over the mirror, acting surprised, pointing at the mirror, then pointing at my face (“I see myself!”) with a happy expression, and skipping around the mirror again. During rehearsals, I mouthed the words along with the other girls. I’m not sure why I didn’t sign — conformity, I suppose.

We lined up to go out one-by-one. I walked out proudly, but then realized with puzzlement that I was the only one on stage. Even so, I performed my role with passion. I skipped, I showed surprise on my face, and I smiled to my heart’s content, holding onto my Brownie cap all this time. I saw the crowd smiling — later, I realized the smiles were ones of discomfort and pity — as I finished my part, and I felt good. I ran over to sit down, and the girl next to me leaned over, bumped shoulders with me, and giggled. I giggled back with pride.

The next Brownie walked out, and started reciting her name and the Girl Scouts promise.

It hit me. I had mouthed a song, complete with dancing, gesturing, and skipping, when I was supposed to have said my name and the Girl Scouts vow. I looked over to my mom in the doorway. Her face, panicky with horrified wide eyes, gave her away. “I’M SORRY! THEY DIDN’T TELL ME THEY CHANGED IT!”

I nodded and put on a brave smile, and joined the troop to do the song — again — a few minutes later. I never did say my vow.

On the ride home, I looked out the window with tears in my eyes. My parents didn’t say a word. They didn’t have to; they understood. Of course, they understood. They were Deaf, too, and had gone through similar experiences.

Every Deaf person I tell this story to laughs uproariously. Sure, it was an awful experience. But I don’t think I ever for once felt scarred by this memory. I think it’s because my parents were able to tell me that it was perfectly okay to feel the way I did. They had been there, done that. So I genuinely laugh at the memory, no matter how many times I tell this story.

Besides, it is funny to think of me skipping around a mirror with a Brownie cap on my head full of permed hair.

Note: Available for re-telling in ASL upon request.

Copyrighted material. This article can not be copied, reproduced, or redistributed without the written consent of the author.

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  1. I’m not sure that I would have “laughed uproariously,” although I might have cringed in empathy. As a former Brownie Scout and Girl Scout, I recall how “out of it” I often was. It’s good that your family was understanding and supportive, and that you can look back on this and see the goofiness.

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