Tag Archives: behan gifford



for Behan and Boolie

I want to get Boolie involved with Girl Scouts, if she’s willing; Erika, already very much herself at a very young age, refused to have anything to do with them. But I was a Girl Scout for years and years with my mom often as the troop leader, and those are some of the best memories of my childhood. More importantly, Girl Scouts does a great job teaching girls the practical skills they will need as adult women. When I was a kid, those were things such as sewing, cooking and needlework. Today, they are teaching them such things as financial competence. I’ve been thinking a lot lately that Boolie will inevitably assume the role of female head of Ben’s household — hell, I think in a lot of ways she’s assumed it already. So I’m setting out to teach her practical life skills. I hope the Girl Scouts didn’t go completely insane after Women’s Lib and stop teaching them housewifery.

Looking through the Daisy Scout summary, I noticed a new feature that didn’t exist back in my Scouting days: the girls each choose one of three “journeys” for their Scouting experience. Those are It’s Your Planet — Love It! which involves conservation and animal life; It’s Your Story — Tell It! which explores personal identity along with writing and storytelling;  and It’s Your World — Change It! which is . . . a little scary.

Do I really want my strong, smart, loving daughter to set out to change the world? It paints rather a depressing picture of strident Right to Lifers and sullen Occupiers, people who are perpetually discontented with everything. Oh yes, there are people who have changed the world, but they never do have a very easy time of it and quite frequently end up dead before their time. Not the life I would choose for my beloved girl.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a program more like It’s Your World — Live In It? If Boolie’s personal contentment and fulfillment are put first, I’d like to see her learn to live gracefully in the world, to learn to look inside for answers, to accept other people for who and what they are, and to be a responsible and loving citizen of the Universe. Changing the world — well, that’s a tall and rather miserable order. I find more and more that being truly content involves getting your Tao on in a big way.

But then my mind turned to my friend Behan, who played the corporate game and played it well until the day she and her husband and their children chucked it all away to live on a boat sailing around the world. You can read about their life on the Totem here. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing you have ever heard? Everyone has daydreamed about it. Behan, ever the captain of her own ship, said Make it so. This makes her one of my heroes right then and there.

And of course, going from living in suburban consumer heaven to living in the middle of the South Pacific takes a lot of simplification: getting rid of unneeded possessions; learning to economize, improvise, make do, and do without. Behan’s kids are getting a taste of what most American kids could never imagine: a life not informed by consumerism and personal ambition. The way the Gifford kids are learning to live on the Totem will bless them with the twin traits of pragmatism and perspective. That’s an incredible gift to give to anyone’s kids.

Behan didn’t change the world, except for the bit where she totally did: she changed her world. Who doesn’t want to run off and live on a boat instead of in the tedium of everyday American working life? We say it as though it’s an impossible dream. Behan made it happen. She knew what she wanted and what she valued, made an intelligent plan to bring it about, and was strong and true enough to actually follow the plan, make the changes, and grab the dream. Behan isn’t occupying anything other than her body. She’s not protesting anything. She’s not strident. She simply knows that the only way to gracefully change the world is to change oneself.

So that’s what I want for Boolie, and I hope I’m a good enough mom to give her at least some of it; I can’t see doing what Behan did, but the values and lessons Behan is imparting to her kids through her choices and their family life are the ones I want Boolie to have. This doesn’t help me whatsoever with the Girl Scout question, of course, but it surer than hell made me stop and think. And now I think of the Gifford family on the deck of their boat at nights, with fireworks over Sydney Harbour above their heads and the world at their feet, and I wish them the very sweetest of journeys.