Daisies recently visited the bookstore to sell Girl Scout Cookies. After losing 30 lbs. last year, it was difficult not to see these little girls with their boxes of sugar-coated fat as Satan in blue smocks, but I just breathed deeply and told them that I had given all of my cash to homeless people to purchase a bottle of Mad Dog to share. They asked what Mad Dog was; I asked them to tell me the last book they read.
I’d forgotten how loud and excitable girls in the 5–7 age group can be. Everything they see requires them to shout, “That’s so cute!” and command their friends to focus their attention the cute object of their attention immediately. “LOOK, GERTA! LOOK! LOOK!” Meanwhile, Gerta twisted a strand of hair around her finger, as she pressed nose against the glass of the door that I had just cleaned with Windex. Finally, I had to shout, “For the love of God, Gerta, look at the damned bookmark!” Gerta’s mother gave me the I’ll-Be-Waiting-For-You-In-The-Parking-Garage-With-My-Car-Running expression. I suppose Daisy enthusiasm can be contagious.
I’m sure that I was just as loud at that age and pressed my nose against just as much, or more, clean glass. Still, I couldn’t help feeling that kids these days are different from when I was young. It’s not just the fact that milk is filled with hormones and that these girls could sprout a bosom like Dolly Parton at any moment. I worry that kids are overly stimulated these days. They come out of the womb, latch on to their mother’s nipple like it was a joystick, and say, “How come I can’t find the cursor?” By the time they’re a few years old, they often times sound so jaded. I asked a little girl a few weeks ago if she liked to read Dr. Seuss. She rolled her eyes at me and replied, “Personally, I find Seuss to be rather banal and cliche. I prefer the edginess and unpredictability of Shel Silverstein. He’s real.”
Therefore, I was delighted when the Daisies took an interest in our bookstore cat, who was snoozing soundly on a display table of bargain books. The girls immediately flocked around her. The cat tensed up. I suggested to the girls that they not crowd around the cat and pet her, one at a time, very gently. Instead, they proceeded to all grab at her fur like she was the last food sample on the tray at the grocery store. Needless to say, the cat nipped one of them. One of the girls grabbed her arm and stepped back, then screamed “THE CAT BIT ME!” She spun around the room like she was going to pass out from the blood loss of the scratch. I asked if she needed a tourniquet. She asked what a tourniquet was, suddenly oblivious to the pain.
At this point, the Girl Scout leader rounded them up to stand outside and sell cookies. I found myself admiring the energy of those little girls, hungry to experience the world with all of their senses, yet, at the same time, feeling for the parents who must be exhausted. I listened for what their 5–7-year-old sales pitch would be to passersby: “They’re delicious,” “Will that be one box of Thin Mints or two?” or the classic “They freeze well.”
Instead, I heard “GERTA, WATCH THIS!” A thud against the glass door made me look up from the books I was sorting behind the counter. The little girl had slammed her behind against the door and yelled through the glass at the cat, “HEY, FURBALL, BITE THIS!” She proceeded to accentuate her point by hooking a thumb toward her bottom. On one hand, I was shocked that a five-year-old could sound like a middle-aged taxi driver, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the clever way she had chosen to mimic the adults around her. The cat, on the other hand, kicked her rear leg back over her head and cleaned herself. Evidently, she was not impressed. It’s not easy selling Girl Scout Cookies to a cat, but that’s definitely not the way to do it. Then again, little girls are basically just kittens, aren’t they?