Old age and Thin Mints

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

There are many – too many – signs in my daily life that let me know I’m getting older! The one that has hit home the hardest recently has to do with Girl Scouts.

As my BMI can attest, I love Girl Scout cookies. The consumption of Thin Mints, Samoas, Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos and (did I mention?) Thin Mints is an annual indulgence that I take seriously. Girl Scout cookies and I have a history. We have deep roots and shared experiences. To not eat Girl Scout cookies would be missing an annual rite of passage into spring.

I began my love affair with the cookies as a seller and daughter of the “Cookie Chairman” who had to store all the cookies in the living room during the sell period. We had boxes and crates of cookies everywhere, and each transaction for each troop had to be meticulously logged in the Cookie Chairman notebook. My mother lost her mind from late February, when the cookies started arriving, through the end of selling in March. Loading those last boxes into some troop leader’s car was always a cause for celebration.

In college, my mother would ship me boxes of – yes – Thin Mints to the dorms or apartments where I lived at the University of Tennessee. I forgot all my Christian upbringing on those occasions. There was no sharing and considerable rationing and hoarding.

Before children, I was a favorite at work for all the moms, dads, aunts and uncles who had Girl Scouts hawking cookies. I was able to maintain my favored status even after I had children because I had boys, and therefore I didn’t have to peddle cookies.

When we moved into our subdivision, there was never a problem of finding someone to sell us cookies. Instead, the chore became a balancing dance of spreading out the number of boxes we could afford to buy amongst all the friends, relatives and neighbors selling them. Normally we had plenty of close friends and relatives selling cookies, so we had to always say, “no, sorry,” to the cute Scouts who came door-to-door.

Actually, I always said that. If my husband answered the door to a smartly dressed, polite little seller, a new box of cookies would appear on the kitchen table.

I remember the excitement in the 1970s when Samoas rolled into production and gave Thin Mints a run for first place. “It’s like a candy bar!” was my mother’s amazed reaction as she explained the new box nestled beside the Thin Mints in my care package in 1975.

In one of my first few years writing at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, I was assigned a story that took me to Little Brownie Bakers in Louisville, Kentucky, to see the cookies being made. It was a fascinating tour that I still remember.

And every year, some sweet Girl Scout would find me, and I would stock up on cookies.

Not this year. Suddenly it’s March and not a single sash-wearing girl has appeared at our door. No friends, grandparents, aunts or uncles have called, sent texts or emailed.

“We are so old, we have outlived our cookie suppliers,” I told my husband as I grabbed my cane and headed for Kroger. A quick internet search had revealed cookie peddlers would be on hand from 4 to 6 p.m.

Girl Scouts Lauren Newell, Hannah Thomson and Keely Hillesheim from Troop 20616 expertly handled my order of Girl Scout cookies.

Three delightful Girl Scouts from Troop 20616, based at Webb School, were waiting for me in the Kroger lobby. They energetically explained each cookie flavor and why two of the boxes had a $5 price tag instead of $4. They smiled broadly as I told them I would need a box to carry all my purchases. They even listened politely as I told my Little Brownie Bakers story. Customers were lining up behind me, so I skipped the “Why I remember when these here Samoas were just youngsters” routine.

Thank you, Lauren Newell, Hannah Thomson and Keely Hillesheim. I am happily enjoying Thin Mints, Samoas, Do-si-dos and the new Lemon-Ups. I may be back since it’s so early in March, and I was forced to share with my husband, the Samoa king to my Thin Mint queen.

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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