If you’ve ever sold a Thin Mint or a Peanut Butter Patty you probably finished off the rest of this Girl Scout jingle without even struggling to remember. As a 6 year old Brownie I used to roll my eyes as I was forced to hold hands in a circle with the other girls in my troop and sing this song. Again. For the 50th time. I mean really what’s the big deal with new friends anyway? Will my new ones not make me sing this song because if so I’m all for it! However, once I left home in South Carolina and started moving every few years, I began to learn how new friends would make my life richer than I could have ever imagined.
When I started telling people that I was going to Trinidad, they would immediately ask, “Who are you going with?” At that point I would pause and try to think of something appropriate to say besides “These chicks I don’t really know like that,” because I mean, who does that? Who runs off to an island to dance in the street for 8 days with mobs of people who have unreasonable access to unlimited alcohol with people you “don’t really know like that?” I mean I kinda sorta knew them (not really for real for real) and collectively we had never done anything together. These weren’t my sorors, crew, homegirls, line sisters, “Brooklyn Dorm buddies” or any other circle that I’m known to hang with. So I described them awkwardly as “these girls I know” because it took a while for me to get it.
And after I had exchanged over 600 emails with these girls excitedly planning out our trip and taking Gmail’s thread feature to a new heights of insanity, sadly, I still didn’t get it. After we deposited hundreds of dollars in each other’s bank accounts without a day’s notice for parties some of us had never been to, I didn’t get it. And even as we stood on the street outside of our first party in Trinidad at nearly 1 AM trying to scrounge up enough money between the 5 of us to buy a ticket from a scalper for one of us who ended up without one, I still didn’t realize who “these girls” had become. But as four of us stood on the beach in Maracas Bay yesterday, cheering as one of us performed African dance moves in front of a steel pan band, I realized “these girls I know” – Cass, Mel, Nik and Sim – were those new friends I had been taught about as a Girl Scout.
As Cass timidly got up from her beach chair and walked over to the drummers behind us it was clear that the steel pans had stirred up a dance in her spirit and her effort to contain it due to the crowded beach was futile. As she twisted her hips and flung her arms into the air, we clapped and cheered as a crowd gathered to watch her impromptu dance performance. Her body was an extension of the drums, and the beat flowed seamlessly from the steel pans up through her feet and into her flailing arms as she mesmerized the crowd. Her energy was contagious because as she exited the circle, Sim entered with her own unique rhythm and style we had grown to recognize over the week, winding and twisting to the drums and pushing the energy even higher. Instead of entering the circle & making a hot fool of myself I remained on the sidelines, capturing video and beaming as they drew compliments, photographs, and free drinks from the crowd.
It was the perfect ending to an experience that I still have not found words to properly describe. 10 years from now when my (non existent, not-on-the-way, calm down Daddy) daughter finds the photos on the family computer of Mommy dancing in the street covered in chocolate baby oil, I probably won’t dwell on the details of my carnival experience. I can’t really explain dancing in a stranger’s water hose on the street at 5 AM or tearing the skin off my leg trying to climb a moving truck to rest my feet for the infamous stage. I can however teach her to make new friends, but keep the old because one is silver and the other will help you off the ground when the skinny boy trying to showboat for his Trini friends can’t hold your weight and drops you in the middle of the street at Carnival. Gold doesn’t get any better than that.