My career in scouting was short-lived. What a troop should do, in my mind, was: taking camping trips, horseback riding, hiking. These are things our small city troop never did. Aside from cookie sales, we met on occasion, did crafts, and occasionally earned a merit badge together. Halfheartedly in my recollection — somehow, we achieved our cooking badge without actually cooking a thing.
But, aside from my under-enthusiasm about our troop as a whole, I was enthusiastic about the Badge Book. I loved books of any sort, but give me a book with pages about things I could do, and I was hooked. My small local library was my sanctuary, where I spent countless hours checking out books on everything from ventriloquism to world religions. So I set about earning patches on my own, going to my troop leaders and demonstrating what I had done to deserve them — and they’d order me my patch.
My most memorable patch was my “Storyteller” badge, which I still have around here, somewhere. Somehow, in my pre-adolescent state, before massive introversion and self-doubt kicked in, I was able to round up bunches of neighborhood kids and force them to listen to my stories.
What I liked, I think, about earning badges was both the satisfaction of accomplishing a task I set out to do and the recognition for an accomplishment. And the badges weren’t necessarily for BIG things; they celebrated small victories like learning to ride a horse, make muffins — or tell stories.
But fast-forward to middle adulthood. I often found myself being self-critical, feeling like I hadn’t accomplished much, definitely not what I had wanted to when I was younger. Sometimes, however, we forget to give ourselves a pat on the back for what we have done. Parenting a child to adulthood is no small feat. Maybe I never tried for a writing career, but getting an article in print is, in itself, something worth celebrating.
At some point, maybe it was when my own daughter was a scout and earning merit badges. I started thinking back to those badges I received as a scout. I wanted a badge book! At that time, I was on hiatus from my career as a therapist, staying home with kids, and sometimes selling used books on Amazon. I found the book “You Can do It” at one of my secondhand book hunts — which appeared on the surface to fit the bill, but something left me unexcited. Where was my badge for routinely carpooling eight girls around to gymnastics events? For the mall shopping marathon? Later, I would ask, where is my “Cosplay Mom” badge?1
I now see that there’s another book called “Geek Merit Badges.” I haven’t read it, but perhaps I should.
When I entered middle age and started doing some things I never thought I’d do, I finally started designing digital merit badges. For instance, the “learn to swim after 40” badge. But digital merit badges somehow left me feeling cold. Every app now wants to give you some sort of digital badge. Fitbit badges just don’t have the same feel as earning a tangible patch.
I recently took our little sewing machine out of the closet, tried out the embroidery feature, and got hooked. So I got digitizing software and a better machine. While working on larger projects, I realized that this is the perfect vehicle for creating my own little merit badges.
I started with something big and obvious — the triathlon badge. I showed my husband, who said it was funny but just had to ask the obvious question: “Didn’t you already get medals for the races you did?” Well…yes. Yes, I did. But I want a merit badge, dammit! I plan to make more — maybe one for that marathon shopping trip. Perhaps one for getting my motorcycle license after 40.
As I make more, I plan to put them in this shadow box on the wall in my craft/guest room. Maybe I’ll even sew a sash to display them on. On days I’m feeling genuinely mean, I’ll wear it when I go out with my daughters. One of the great joys of motherhood is living long enough to be an embarrassment to your children.
So, I’ve decided, as I make more, to create my own badge book here on this website. While it’s something I’ve long wanted to do and not a marketing endeavor, I’ll also likely add the embroidery files and a few patches to the shop.
I’ll likely make badges based on things I’ve done, some serious, some dilly — but I’m open to suggestions if you have a badge you’d like to see me try to make.
Someday, perhaps, you’ll see an old-ish lady walking around sporting a sash full of merit badges. She’ll be the one with two young women assiduously avoiding her, and you’ll know it’s me.
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- Writing this makes me recall one of my favorite cosplayers: Pokémom, who had a trainer cap and a white lab coat which hid reams of cards in card protector sleeves that would be revealed when she spread her arms.