It was 1999, maybe 2000, and my fifth grade class was headed to Space Camp. On the ride over, a girl from my class thought I was flirting with her boyfriend. I didn’t even know what flirting meant, and this was back in the day when we got all our information from “Family Matters” and “Saved By The Bell,” so everything was fairly innocent.
She told me she was going to beat me up in my sleep right before we got off the bus. I spent three days in complete terror. She was tall, redheaded, and the meanest girl in school. I have nothing against redheads — I am one, and I have a redheaded son — but it gives you a mental image of the situation.
On top of that, I was too scared to tell anyone why I wanted to come home. I’d eventually keep that secret until I was 18 and got tired of being made fun of for getting kicked out of Space Camp.
I cried on the phone for my parents for three days, begging them to come get me. If I could just get sent home, I’d be safe. See, Space Camp had this rule: If you get sent home, you can’t come back.
All I had to do was get sent home.
Around Wednesday, my mom broke down and came to get me because I was so pitiful. I was saved — or so I thought. My dad, always one for the lessons, called Space Camp directors and gave some long speech about teaching your children to finish what they start. Then, they did the unthinkable. They let me back in. That Thursday at 8 a.m., I was back at Space Camp, sleeping with one eye open and learning about the shuttles.
It wasn’t Space Camp’s fault that week was so awful. I’m sure they would have done something if I’d told anyone, but I didn’t. Aside from that spinny thing they claimed wouldn’t make me sick but ended up making me puke, the activities were lovely. How were they supposed to know I’d grow up to have severe vertigo?
Moreover, can we just take a moment to say “God bless” to those counselors who have handled hormonal fifth-graders for the past 38 years? That’s, like, the hardest year to handle.
Now, Space Camp is in jeopardy. They need $1.5 million to keep operating, and they need it by October. In only three days, they’ve already raised more than $500,000, so they’re off to a good start. You can donate directly here, or buy one of these crocheted rockets for $20 with all proceeds going to Space Camp.
It was a rough week for me. Now 20ish years later, I’m glad I went back. It’s our chance to make sure other kids have that same opportunity.