hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

March 21, 2012

Poor Tom's Almanac: Girl Scout cookie never crumbles

Tom Vartabedian

Anyone out there want to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies cheap? I'll let them go half price. That's $3 for a box of bliss.

Not that I don't like them, mind you. I can eat thin mints and shortbreads until they come out of my ears.

But like the old woman who lived in a shoe, I have so many, I don't know what to do. Therefore, I'm looking for a few good cookie takers.

It all starts with a granddaughter in Girl Scouts, then extends to your neighbor's kids and further on down the road to my Sunday School students and those of other parents who belong to the same YMCA I frequent.

Just when I've reached the point of overkill, I find these cookies being sold at supermarkets and other places of interest. I don't go looking for them. They find me.

Maybe it's the pitch. How can you refuse a young girl wearing a uniform, trying to make some money for her troop? I cannot. I'm a sucker for a kid selling a cookie or a candy bar.

My granddaughter is such a squeeze, she could sell me a bucket of sand from the beach.

"Papa, I'm selling Girl Scout cookies. How many boxes can I put you down for?"

We don't discuss price. It's more a numbers game.

"If I sell 100 boxes, I win a prize," she informs me.

"Okay, let's start with five and go from there."

Five minutes later, she's hitting my wife. This woman was a den mom in her day and knows the score when it comes to Girl Scouts. Our daughter was the ultimate cookie girl. Back then, you would go canvassing through your neighborhood unaccompanied. Today, that's undesirable.

Like most dads, I used to bring cookie supplies to work and peddle them to my cohorts. One or two helped themselves to a box without payment and I found myself kicking in the proceeds. Not that they meant it, given their meager salaries. Girl Scout cookies are like peanuts. You can't stop at one.

"Mr. V," a blue-eyed girl called out in church. She had her sheet in front of my nose. Now this youngster is a salesgirl.

"How many boxes would you like to order?" she smiled curtly.

"I bought some from my granddaughter, "I informed her.

"Fine. Will three be enough?"

I was driving down the road and there before me was a billboard marking the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. It was an eye-catcher the way they portrayed the numerals with cookies. It looked so realistic, I wanted to reach out and take one.

I can only vouch for my daughter by telling you what the Girl Scouts did for her. She joined the organization at 10 — shy, inhibited, calculating.

Through the various genres, she blossomed into a well-rounded teenager, oozing with confidence and maturity. A base had been established. Everything else grew from Scouting.

And she would be the first to tell you that Scouting played a significant role in her life and career as a city editor of The Newburyport News. It taught her how to handle adversity and manage responsibility. People skills were adopted.

Both her brothers became Eagle Scouts and perhaps it was Sonya who planted that seed as the first-born. We were a Scouting family from the get-go and experienced some of our best years together in Scouting. No doubt the boys were just as productive, even without cookies. They sold candy and candles.

By the time we got done ordering, spending, eating and gifting, we were pretty much all cookied out this year. Boxes were piled up on our living room table. I tried a couple others like the lemonade and the caramel deLites that were supposed to be lower in calories — until you eat more than you really should.

The other day during a family gathering, I popped the question to my granddaughter.

"So how are you coming along with the Girl Scout cookies?"

All of a sudden, I found an arm wrapped around my shoulder and a look that made me melt on the spot.

"I'm trying for a prize," she divulged. "There's this girl in our troop whose dad works in a big company and he's the boss. Would I love to beat her and win the iPod."

"How many more boxes do you need to sell?" I queried.

"Well, err, ahh, umm, only 12 more."

"Okay, put me down," I gulped.

It was then that the arm around the shoulder gave me the squeeze, followed by a peck on the cheek. "Papa, you're the greatest."

It all starts with a cookie and an organization that are both indestructible.

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Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.