Bet­ter safe than sorry

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Come sum­mer, who doesn’t dream of get­ting away? For kids, it’s the sea­son to run wild and ex­plore and meet new peo­ple. Cathy Hall’s sum­mer wish was to go to sum­mer camp — specif­i­cally, the camp where her friend and neigh­bour, Ellen, would spend the sum­mer. In her story “Bet­ter Safe Than Sorry,” from our book for kids about think­ing pos­i­tive, Cathy talks about friend­ship and one mem­o­rable sum­mer:

My mom wasn’t im­pressed with daily swimming or the lessons. Mostly, she was con­cerned with me just get­ting through the day. I’d never spent even one night away from home. And now here I was, beg­ging to go off to a camp for two whole weeks!

“You won’t know any­one but Ellen,” she said. “And she’ll be in a dif­fer­ent cabin.”

My mother made a good point. Ellen was two grades ahead of me. In the fall, I’d be go­ing into fourth grade, and Ellen would be go­ing into the sixth grade. The sixth-graders were in the older girls’ cabin, and the fourth-graders were in the younger girls’ cabin. Mom ap­pre­ci­ated my en­thu­si­asm, but she also knew I was nat­u­rally shy. I could tell she was wor­ried that I’d get all the way to camp and then beg to come home.

In the end, Ellen and her mother came to my res­cue. They some­how con­vinced the camp di­rec­tor to al­low me to stay with Ellen. So when I got to camp, I un­packed my bags in the older girls’ cabin.

Boy, did I feel cool! I was only go­ing into fourth grade, but there I was, hang­ing out with Ellen and the older girls! I didn’t have time to be shy. I was too busy be­ing su­per cool!

All too soon, it was our last evening. The whole camp buzzed with the spe­cial Satur­day ac­tiv­i­ties. The cook­out would be fol­lowed by roast­ing marsh­mal­lows and then camp­fire songs and ghost sto­ries!

Of course, all the younger kids would leave be­fore the ghost sto­ries started. But the older campers were al­lowed to stay up ex­tra late and hear the coun­sel­lors’ spooky tales. And be­cause I bunked with the older girls, I had the priv­i­lege of stay­ing up and en­joy­ing the thrills and chills with Ellen and my bunk­mates. I could hardly wait!

I can still re­mem­ber how ex­cit­ing it was to sit around in that big cir­cle, the fire crack­ling, the ner­vous laugh­ter, shoul­der to shoul­der with friends, wait­ing for the sto­ries to be­gin. I can even re­mem­ber the very first story: “Leapin’ Lena.”

I can’t re­call too many of the de­tails, though. All I re­mem­ber is shiv­er­ing in my shoes, knees prac­ti­cally knock­ing and my mouth dry as toast. I was sure that any minute Leapin’ Lena would spring across the river and make me her next vic­tim!

I sat there trem­bling be­cause I’d sud­denly re­al­ized why the younger kids weren’t al­lowed to stick around for the ghost sto­ries — they were too scary! And I des­per­ately wished to be back in my lit­tle bunk bed, safe and sound. But how could I leave? I was in the cabin with the older girls. I was way too cool to ad­mit I was scared. Wasn’t I?

I sat in agony around that camp­fire. I didn’t want to have any­thing more to do with ghost sto­ries. I knew that if I stayed, I’d just get even more fright­ened. But if I left, I’d have to stand up in front of all the cooler-than-me campers and find my coun­sel­lor. I was very nearly close to tears — afraid to stay and afraid to leave.

It wasn’t easy. But I screwed up my courage, fig­ur­ing I’d rather be safe than sorry. I found my coun­sel­lor and ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion. She was happy to take me back to the cabin — and she stayed with me, as­sur­ing me that plenty of campers didn’t like the ghost sto­ries.

I ended up hav­ing a great time on my last night at camp — back in my cozy cabin. And when the older girls re­turned, they re­as­sured me as well. They all agreed that if Leapin’ Lena had scared me, I would never have lasted through ... well. That’s a scary story for another camp­fire night!

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