The Most Natural Thing In the World
Thu, 28 Nov 1996 01:32:59 -0600
The Most Natural Thing In the World
My mother told me once that you can stop being a daddy but you can never
stop being a mother. It wasn't until I saw the Blue Owl hold that child,
cooing and moving back and forth as the airplane moved forward that I
understood what she meant.
Oh, I've seen mothers coo and rock and try to comfort their newborn children.
I've done it as a father, holding Andrew in my arms and rocking him, moving
back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in the rocking chair in the
living room. Trying to keep up with the television set, turned so low that
the reporters sounded like they were whispering too, afraid to wake the
slumbering mass of hair, skin and bones I called my son.
I've watched my own mother hold my baby brother, bottle on his side, as she
moved in a swaying motion on her bed to get him back to sleep. I've even
seen my Godsister, Cyndi's hair constantly in the way, as she breastfed her
and rocking her gently.
But I've never seen a woman to do what Blue Owl did. Oh, that's not her name.
Her name is Marci. Marci Besser, and she's a Scoutmaster of a Troop in a
community near Wiesbaden. She's also on the training team, a Commissioner,
a member of the District Committee, and on the high school's drama committee.
Marci got up in the middle of our conversation, went over and found that
crying child, ask to hold her, and started rocking that child until it shut
up and went back
to cooing or sleeping...I couldn't tell which.
I was too impressed by her gentle but strongwilled act of kindness.
Marci and I met on the contract aircraft returning from Philadephia to
Air Force Base, on the other side of Frankfort International Airport in Germany.
I went home earlier than I had planned, in order to sign adoption paperwork
and to visit with my wife Jessica before the Army planned to move me to
Kigali, Rwanda to assist in a humanitarian mission. I knew about the
mission two months ago, had been planning and assisting the support command
to which I was to be attached to, and spent three weeks in the field with
them while they were being certified. I wanted to be home before I left for
four months, six months. The time kept changing as the days went onward.
Marci visited friends and relatives Stateside. Her husband, Stew, is the
senior medical officer for the 1st Armored Division. He's down in a place
called Camp Bedrock, the medical facility in Tusla, Bosnia. So, like so
many military spouses, she surrounded herself with work and friends. And
We shared a drink and when they forgot the traditional crackers and peanuts,
waited for the stewardess to come back and ask her "You have some crackers
on that tray? How about some peanuts?" Clearly, I can see why she was a
Owl. She explained that she takes these trips, these "hops" between the
States and Europe all of the time. With a daughter working for the Exchange
Service and a son working all kinds of jobs, it gives Marci some level of
freedom to go and travel "with or without Stew". She's really proud of him,
but unlike a lot of officers' wives whom try to stick that "rank" their
husband wears in your face, she's more content to share how he did a bunch
of physicals for Scouting units without a fee (they are supposed to collect
a fee for any non-military related service they provide). Or how much fun
the two of them had down in Garmisch at the annual Transatlantic Council's
A rather tall and strikingly beautiful woman, Marci could easily mow you
down in a supermarket scrimmage. As a matter of fact, when I was sleeping
there, flying several thousand feet above the water, I dreamed that I saw
Marci on TV on one of those "supermarket sweeps" shows. She was competing
against this really skinny guy and when the host said "start shopping!", she
almost killed the poor guy trying to get all of the "good expensive stuff"!!
I woke up laughing, and when she asked
why, I didn't have the nerve to tell her that she almost killed some poor
contestant over a case of Zesta saltines!
She noticed the computer book I was trying to read but was unable to. See,
when you are flying for ten hours over the Atlantic Ocean, you hear
everything. The movie that we were unable to view because of a broken
screen. The conversation of the two passengers in front of us. The rush of
the engines against the air outside.
And those babies. It was like every child from newborn to age two -- in the
world -- was locked up in OUR part of the plane, and that people were
pinching them to get them to cry. And cry. And cry.
We tried to carry on a normal adult conversation, but we would get drowned out.
When dinner came, we placed away our books and cassettes and shared the
evening meal. Talking with Marci was like talking with a friend that I
haven't seen or heard
from in years. She told me about the Gilwell Reunion, to which I found out
that she was an Owl...a Blue Owl. I told her I was a Blue Beaver.
Wood Badge patrol names. During the week-long or eight-day advanced
training session for Boy Scouting leaders, conducted by invitation, you
belong to a group with six to eight others called a Patrol. Each patrol has
a name and you add to it with descriptors to make YOUR patrol more than just
a "Owl" or "Beaver" Patrol.
So then, I told her about the Scouts-L list, and she promptly found the
backside of a checkbook, gave it to me and I wrote down the address to
subscribe -- the new address as the listserver has moved to a new machine --
and the address to post to.
She said "I know I won't get to see you anymore, but I would sure like to
touch...may I have your address too?" I took out my binder and asked her
for the same and for Stew's address down south, since I knew that
eventually, I'll be going toward that direction again.
We rested again, Marci placing her private set of headphones on her head and
me pouring back into a back issue of Home Office Computing that Jessica told
me to take back. I remembered as I was reading our conversation before I
hurrily left the Louisville airport. We didn't even have time to kiss each
other "see you". I told her that I would be sleeping most of the way. "No
you won't. You'll find some Boy
Scout person on the plane and you would be trading stories, I'd bet!"
I closed my book and started up a conversation about what she wanted to do
with her Troop. I told her that I was planning to "shang-hi" myself back
to Germany at the end of my regular 270 days and come back for Intercamp, a
European national Jamboree.
We sat there in our seats, chatting away when all of a sudden, observing how
a woman was obiously frustrated because her child couldn't go back to sleep
on the noisy plane, Marci...the Blue Owl...got up from her seat, moved
across three rows of seats and asked to hold the baby.
There, I saw what my Mom tried to tell me. I saw more. I saw a Scouter
doing what we all say we're supposed to do, helping other people at all times.
Three weeks later, I felt a tapping on my left shoulder as I sat awaiting
the start of Barry Lardie's Eagle Scout Court of Honor, in Ramstein Air
Force Base's North Chapel. I turned and there was this woman, the same one
that mowed down her competition for a case of Zestas. "Hey!! I thought you
were gone down south!!"
"Me too. They won't let Reservists play", I replied, turning my chair
around. We started talking until my boss, the Commanding General, came into
I was thinking about the entire way that I got to meet Marci....I had
forgotten her name briefly and had to look it up in my binder to remind
me...Blue Owl....oh yeah..
It is so strange that if she was just another passenger, our conversation
would have been short. How are you? I am fine, thanks. I work in
Kaiserslautern with the TAACOM there. Yes, I'm a Reservist. I miss her,
she's in Kentucky. Henderson.
Yes, three and one on the way. Nice meeting you.
That's all I would have said. Instead in ten hours of flight, another hour
waiting for our bags to be thrown onto a revolving belt and a 45 minute ride
with her daughter to the train station, we shared our families and lives and
discussed problems with Scouting and the military and even had time to eat
dinner and drink coffee.
It's that "Scout thing".
It was like if it was the most natural thing in the world.
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (Settummanque, the blackeagle)
(Brigade) Signal Officer, TF 21, 21st Theater Army Area Command
Kaiserslautern, Federal Republic of Germany
"everything I say is "on the record"; speaking ONLY for myself unless indicated"
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Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City