Listen to the Recess! Clip
Brownies and Sushi Transcript
At only my second meeting as a Brownie, our troop leader, whom I remember because of her many chins and her warbling voice, announced that a troop in San Francisco had invited us to tea. This sent me into a flurry of anticipation because I knew from Enid Blyton books all that tea could mean. At ten o’clock on the big day, the sight of the waiting station wagons was exciting in itself because it meant I was going to get to ride with other girls. But then, when everyone had arrived, our leader told us that the troop we were going to visit was Japanese. “Wow!” my bookish eight-year self said, as it replaced the English ladies with mothers in kimonos, who’d pour us tea from pots with blue fish on them while we sat on the floor looking reverent.
We caravanned across the Golden Gate and pulled to a stop in front of some steps. All I remember about the building is that it was large and cream-colored. And I can’t remember either what the other troop was wearing, probably uniforms; all I’m sure of is that neither they nor their mothers had on kimonos. What I do recall about that day, though, and what I could probably paint for you even all these years later, is the look of the beautiful array of what I took to be cookies– green-edged and decorated with colored petals, white and yellow and orange. A smiling lady handed us each a plate and told us to help ourselves. I loaded my plate and waited for my table to fill. Finally three girls from my troop and four Japanese girls obliged, and one of their mothers came around and poured some tea into each of our handle-less cups. “Arigato,” I said, the only word I remembered from my Japanese twins book.
Finally! I bit into a cookie with a pink top– my favorite color– and without thinking, spat it out so fast that I almost missed the napkin I’d hastily brought up to my mouth. My reaction was more surprise than distaste, because I’d expected sugar and got fish. You have to remember that though most Americans know about sushi now, when I was a little girl, we hadn’t even heard of pizza. And as it turned out, once I got used to the idea of fish cookies, I found out I rather liked them. In fact, I remember finishing at least one.
A few months later, our troop disbanded after our leader moved away. But even now, I can sing you “There is Something in my Pocket” and come up with a great big Brownie smile. And I can teach you the secret handshake our troop had, the one Bluebirds, which my mother put me into after Brownies, will never know. But what lingers most from those days, and I think of it every time I go to a Japanese restaurant, is being eight years old, and how transfixed I was by the Christmas-present beauty of those trays of sushi.