Better safe than sorry
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!