Yesterday I found a yellowed piece of paper interspersed with some old photos of the house I was forced to sell a few years ago and a single Polaroid from my one and only wedding. Sometime in the past 30 years, I tossed the paper in the box, where it remained, unfolded and unread. My discovery appears to have been a gift left by my mother's benevolent ghost for me to read as I sorted through the detritus of my previous lives.
It's not dated, but it was written over a three month period in 1942 or 1943 and chronicles the duties my mother assumed in order to attain the rank of "Torch Bearer" in the Campfire Girls of America. My grandmother's signature at the bottom of the page matches the one on the identification card of every young man from Elkhart County, Indiana who served in the armed forces during WWII.
I've copied the list devised by her troop leader verbatim, adding my own comments, in parentheses.
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1) Be on time and stay thru each meeting for 10 consecutive C.F. meetings. (After the tenth meeting, you'll be working so many hours to complete your assigned duties, you'll need your rest.)
2) Have no marks below “B” for 3 consecutive months. (Mom graduated third in her class.)
3) Do not borrow money for 2 consecutive months. (See #4, below. You're going to be finding a job in a wartime economy at fifteen years of age.)
4) Fill a salaried position for two months. (Grandma signed this, so we know Mom fulfilled the requirement. Mom was a soda jerk at the neighborhood ice cream parlor; if any 15 year-old could talk her way into a salaried position, maintain a better than "B" average and complete the following duties in three months without breaking a sweat, it was Mom.)
5) Take entire care of room for one month. (Grandma worked at the draft board from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Only women and girls did housework. Mom had a younger brother and no sisters. Needless to say, they didn't have household help who were grateful for a little extra time to finish their chores.)
6) Set and clear table one month. (See #5, above.)
7) Wash or dry dishes for one month. (See #5, above. Wash or dry? In addition to her clerical duties, Grandma spent a considerable amount of time at the Goshen railway station with the other families who were there to wave goodbye to their sons, brothers and husbands who were leaving home, many for the first time in their young lives, to serve their country. Eventually, she stood there and watched her own son board a train. Her dedication and service to others earned her a commendation from the Governor of Indiana and a half-page spread in the Goshen News.)
8) Take a warm cleansing bath (40 times in 8 consecutive weeks). (No commentary on this one, other than the directive to visualize a closed bathroom door, if you know what's good for you.)
9) Brush teeth for three months. (Mom would want you to know she had all her own teeth when she died. The requirement we've all been waiting for is NEXT!!!!)
10) Wear clean underwear for 1 month. (Mom and Grandma are bumping fists in heaven, exchanging whispered comments like, "Turn them inside out on the last day and continue wearing them until only the elastic remains.")
11) Demonstrate how to make a bed for a patient. (This does not mean that the patient is leaning one-legged on his crutches, grateful for the lesson.)
12) Give ten hours work to the Red Cross. (Ten hours of Mom's hyperkinetic energy was roughly equivalent to 50 hours of anyone else's.)
13) Spend 8 hours in library and find out how it works. (Mom was President of the Ladies Library Association until a few hours before her death, when she passed the torch to her Vice President. It was the last thing Mom did before she said goodbye.)